My Year With The A-Team: Season 5, Episode 2 – Trial By Fire

In My Year With the A-Team by Brady Carlson0 Comments

B.A., Face and Hannibal on trial

“Who knew there were so many dinosaurs during the Vietnam war?”

We’re on a roll, so let’s not pause to get a dose of my keen observations. Even though they really are quite keen. Incisive, even, or sharp. Really, I’ll bet people read these recaps more for the observations than the shows themselves, because they’re just that freakin’ great. See how good I am at this?


Trial By Fire

Wild Guess Preview: Hunt Stockwell’s machinations have put the A-Team in government hands at long last. But the long-awaited court martial doesn’t take place. Why? Because both parties in the suit have agreed to dismiss their court cases and have their disputes settled here, in our forum… The People’s Court!

The Recap: It’s been a good fifteen years on the run, but the members of the A-Team, or, as the news reporter calls them, “the most infamous war criminals in US military history,” are finally going to trial. The prosecutor is a guy called Major Laskov; a sort of pointy-looking general chooses him because he has a reputation for getting convictions. “The A-Team is an insult to anyone who’s ever worn a uniform!” the general storms, and Laskov couldn’t agree more. The general warns Laskov that the A-Team is always thinking, but Laskov says he’ll be ready: “I don’t think Colonel Smith’s unorthodox strategies will be very effective in the face of a court martial.”

The team is, in fact, trying everything they can think of to get out of the brig; Face is boring the guard to death with a story about his baseball team at the orphanage, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. “You’re wasting your time, Face,” Hannibal calls from the next cell. “These guys all went to the Decker School of Charm.” B.A. also makes a plea for Face to “stop your jibba jabba.” A guard comes up and says someone is there to see the team; it’s a lawyer called Conway; Frankie the special effects man asked that he help the team out. Conway says the government’s case is so strong that it’ll be nearly impossible to win, but B.A. insists they’re innocent: “We didn’t commit no crime!” Conway asks if he can prove that. Of course he can: B.A. said he’s innocent, and “B.A. Baracus don’t lie!” That should be sufficient for acquittal, right?

Conway says the Army is offering a plea; they can plead guilty to treason, or they can face trial for the murder of Colonel Morrison. What? Morrison was killed in artillery barrage, but that weasel Curtis from the last episode claims he was an eyewitness to the killing. He’s lying, of course, but no one can prove it. Conway says they should take the deal. “Prison beats execution anyday.”

The team heads back to their cells. While out of the guards’ earshot, Hannibal confides to Face that he’s worried about Murdock. he remembers that Morrison was alive when they left him, and that Murdock reported back to the guy after dropping them off for the Bank of Hanoi job. He worries that the prosecutor is going to go after Murdock, too.

Murdock confronts Frankie
I’m not crazy anymore – I’m EMO

Hannibal’s right to worry, but not because of the prosecutor: he should be worried because the normally freewheeling Murdock is now a ball of rage. His first target is Frankie, who suggests they watch the trial together in “support of our boys.” “Those aren’t our boys,” Murdock says. “They’re my boys.” Then Stockwell walks in, to both their amazement. Murdock remembers how Frankie worked for Stockwell in last week’s show and says, “Now you’ve got somebody to watch the trial with.” Ouch.

B.A., Hannibal and Face take the courtroom at gunpoint
If you say I’m guilty again, I’ll shoot ya!

Military court is in session. Major Laskov, the prosecutor, says the medical examiner exhumed Colonel Morrison and found he’d been shot twice before the artillery shelling. Captain Curtis testifies that Colonel Morrison knew the team was going to rob the Bank of Hanoi without orders, and that his signature had been forged in a request for a helicopter. Curtis claims he overheard a loud argument where Hannibal was threatening Morrison, and that Hannibal ran from the building just after it was shelled. “He’s LYING!” B.A. yells. “We was in North Vietnam that night!” The judge starts yelling about contempt of court, but B.A.’s had enough; “I’m not gonna sit here and listen to this fool lie!” So he overturns their table and starts punching people. Within seconds the team grabs a couple of guns and takes control of the courtroom, but they quickly realize this won’t win them any friends. Hannibal: “What Sergeant Baracus is saying, your honor, is that we didn’t do it.” They put their guns down.

Ok, that didn’t go so well, which might be why the guards are bringing Hannibal to a secret meeting with Hunt Stockwell. “What’s this midnight melodrama?” Hannibal asks, adding that it’s pretty clear somebody offered to let Curtis alone on his gun-running escapades so that he’d testify against the team. Stockwell just looks a little annoyed and gestures for Hannibal to be sent away.

Decker on the stand
End of the line, Smith!

The next day of trial is calmer, mostly because B.A.’s in cuffs, but also because Conway the defense lawyer is cross-examining Curtis. He produces an Interpol report that names Curtis as “a principal figure in international gun smuggling.” Curtis has to admit that yes, he’s a smuggler. Frankie’s excited: “The opposition’s on the run,” he says, but Murdock replies “I wouldn’t bet on it.” Why? Because Decker is taking the stand! “I pursued Colonel Smith and the A-Team for three long years,” Decker tells the court. “I lost track of how many laws they broke and how much military property they destroyed.” He adds that they don’t follow the rules and are loyal to “no one but themselves.” The team’s lawyer gets Decker to admit that the team did, from time to time, help a few people. Like several hundred people. “But that doesn’t make it right,” Decker adds. Decker looks funny without a hat on.

The prosecution brings up another guy, a villain who I don’t remember from any episode; he claims the team blew up his auto repair shop and ruined his life – which they probably did, but because he was evil. “You guys are animals!” he yells. “I hope you get what you deserve!” B.A. flips out again: “I know what you deserve, sucka!” He starts kicking at the guy with his chained legs, so the judge has to remove him from the courtroom. “B.A.’s always been a bit high-strung,” Face tells Conway. The big guy’s constant flipouts are causing a legal headache; Conway says “all four of you” will have to take the stand – oh yes, Major Laskov is planning to call Murdock to the stand. “Murdock on the stand,” Hannibal says, with a smile. “That should be interesting.”

A dinosaur in Murdock's testimony
Testify, brother Murdock! Testify!

That’s an understatement. Murdock says he flew the rest of the team to the Bank of Hanoi and then returned to meet with Colonel Morrison. “There was a lot of enemy activity,” he says. “That’s why I had to fly in fast… and low.” And then we get a montage of Murdock’s memory of the flight, which mostly involves a him (or a version of him with Ted Danson hair) yelling “Mayday!” while Native Americans shoot arrows at him. “Can someone make a Mayday call in January?” Flashback Murdock asks, in between shots of pirate ships and a dinosaur. Then he starts channeling Humphrey Bogart’s paranoid Colonel Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny” in perfect detail, even down to the stress balls Queeg held in his hand! I have watched nearly every episode of this show, laughed at almost everything the Murdock character has done, and I have to say, this may be the funniest thing I have ever seen on The A-Team.

Face sneaks around Hanoi
Isn’t Face wearing the same outfit Tia Carrere wore in the Season Four finale?

Now it’s time for the defense to tell its side. Hannibal’s up first; he says Morrison told him about a secret mission for the team, a mission that could help end the war. That, of course, was to rob the Bank of Hanoi, which they pulled off with their usual awesomeness. Or, at least, until several Viet Cong soldiers spotted them. Face, who was scamming a getaway truck, had to drive into the bank to get Hannibal and B.A. and head out.

Major Laskov asks about how much money they took from the bank. “Ten million piasters,” Hannibal answers; Laskov says that’s about a million dollars in US money, and that the bank reported fifty million piasters missing. Hannibal suspects some of the North Vietnamese took the rest of the money, but Laskov doesn’t buy it. Hannibal says he had no reason to kill Morrison. Laskov says he’s killed before, and Hannibal says yes, but only the Viet Cong, which was the enemy. “They killed us. We killed them.” Suddenly a guy hands Laskov a folder, and in it he has “newly declassified” documents on the Vietnam War, from a North Vietnamese colonel. According to the document, Morrison was one of twenty US military officials known to have sold intelligence to the enemy for money. Conway says the evidence is inadmissible because the guy isn’t there to testify, but Laskov says he can’t be there because he’s living under a new identity in the US in exchange for his testimony. Uh oh. “If you have a rabbit under those hats,” Conway tells Face and B.A., “I suggest you let him out now.”

Murdock is beside himself as he walks out of the courtroom; Frankie follows, correctly surmises that Murdock is going to try to find this Vietnamese colonel, and offers to help. So Murdock takes some oil from a nearby Jeep, paints his face and recites the creed of the Flying Nighthawk Commando: “Fly By Night, laugh and say, beating up bad guys makes my day.” “What’d you have for lunch, man?” Frankie says. They head out.

The rest of the team is stunned that Morrison might have been a double agent – and that it doesn’t bode well for their case. “I think we’re gonna get nailed,” Hannibal says. But B.A. remembers something about the testimony “crazy man” gave – that he was at the base at the time Morrison was killed. Could Murdock have done it? “If you found out Morrison was working for the Viet Cong,” Hannibal asks, “what would you have done?” Oh my.

Murdock and Frankie are commandos

The Flying Nighthawk Commandos, girding their loins.

Murdock and Frankie are infiltrating an office on behalf of their “three flyboys.” They’re nearly foiled when Frankie leaves his black commando cap on the office desk and a guard sees it, but they blow up the file cabinet and knock the guy out. Then they find the Vietnamese colonel’s new name and address and head out.

B.A. on the stand
“And then I learned to table the label, and wear my own brand…”

Now Laskov is questioning B.A. He’s a little nervous: “I apologize if any of my questions offend you!” he says, to a nasty look. Then he starts asking about how if he, Face and Hannibal were in Hanoi, then maybe Murdock knows who pulled the trigger on Morrison? Maybe Murdock’s the one who did it? “Everyone in the world knows the man is a fool… he’s crazy.” But, he hastens to add, “Murdock won’t hurt nobody.” “I wonder,” Laskov says.

Murdock and Frankie drop by this colonel’s job, at a restaurant. The fact that they’re dressed all in black and have greasepaint on their faces is, I’m sure, not going to arouse suspicion. They ask for the colonel, but all they get is a big guy holding a meat cleaver in their direction. They bolt, and at the same moment a car drives away. They follow.

Back from a lunch recess, Laskov comes over to the defense table. “We all know that what the Army wants out of this trial is an A-Team conviction. What I’m interested in here is justice.” He says he thinks the jury can be convinced that Murdock was “acting in a questionable mental state when he killed Colonel Morrison. Help me do that; it could save your lives.” Hannibal and Conway both tell Laskov to get lost. Conway tells the team that Murdock has found the Vietnamese colonel; all they have to do is drag him in for testimony, and then they can recall Curtis about his perjured testimony and things should be hunky-dory. Except that the judge returns from lunch to announce that Curtis is dead, “killed by a hit-and-run driver.” Hannibal realizes they’re in a bind; without Curtis to recant his lying, the three teamers will get off, but the prosecution “will nail Murdock.” He stands up and announces he’s changing his plea, to guilty. “I killed Colonel Morrison,” he says. What the hell? Face jumps up: “I helped him do it.” And then B.A.: “It was all three of us.” Oh dear.

The court takes a short recess so that Conway can yell at them about their pleas. “Are you out of your minds?” he rages. “We are winning!” B.A. suggests maybe they really did do it, but the lawyer says “you could never kill anyone in cold blood. I’m sure of it.” They think about this, and Hannibal says ok, “we’ll try it your way.” A bit late for that, I’m afraid!

Murdock and Frankie have cornered this wayward colonel at his apartment building, only the guy’s able to climb out his window while Murdock is singing the Fighting Nighthawk Commando theme song (entitled “Gird Your Loins”) into the walkie-talkie. Luckily Frankie’s rigged the fire escape ladder with some effects, and so the dude falls into a garbage truck, which Frankie’s conveniently driving. After a little duress, the colonel confesses that Morrison was a VC collaborator, and that the mission to rob the Bank of Hanoi “was supposed to be a trap… it was supposed to be an embarrassment to your country.” Then the MPs show up, at the Vietnamese colonel’s request, and surround their position. But Murdock and Frankie are Flying Nighthawk Commandos, so they floor the garbage truck and drive away; two MP cars follow and end up flipping over.

Murdock brings the Vietnamese colonel into the court

A surprise witness brought in from a guy with greasepaint all over his face? Damn right I’ll allow it!

Ok, back to the trial. The judge asks the teamers to rise as he pronounces their sentence, but Murdock busts in with the colonel and says that the guy’s testimony can prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the team is innocent. The judge says this is cool and lets him continue, but the colonel totally does a 180 and says Morrison was terrified that the A-Team would find out he was an agent, lest they do him in.

Stockwell is sitting in his plane, and the woman in red, now in blue, hands him a briefing of some kind. “I think the A-Team looks as guilty as hell,” he says. “However, the guilty must pay for their crimes. They must have known the risks.”

Well, that’s that then. The panel finds the teamers guilty and the sentence is death. “Sentence will be carried out as soon as possible,” the judge says. To be continued.

This is a major episode, in that it finally closes the big story loop on which the show began. But it does so in a pretty odd way; the team isn’t even tried for the crime they’ve been accused of for fifteen years, but instead for the murder of Colonel Morrison, which they’ve only been accused of for like a week. And even if the court did believe they killed the guy, the theory is that they did it because he was a traitor… and that’s why they’re prosecuting the team? And I’m not sure what the episode is really all about, if the Army is trying to railroad the team, if Stockwell is trying to railroad the team, or something altogether. It’s not that it’s all bad, it’s just convoluted.

But Murdock’s testimony alone makes this incredible, must-watch stuff. Who knew there were so many dinosaurs during the war?

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