The team at a cabin

“Stockwell opening sequences are like A-Team Mad Libs: ‘If the A-Team can find (PROPER NAME), then (FOREIGN COUNTRY) can’t build the new (WEAPON) for Project (NORSE GOD).'”

So here we are. The final day. The last run. The home stretch. Twenty-four hours that signal success or failure. I am confident – well, as confident as a man with limited skills and a slow response time can be. And just to guarantee we wrap up on time, I’ve put on some inspiring songs. Er, song. Remember the song that plays during the tournament in “The Karate Kid”? “The Moment of Truth?” I’m playing that over and over today.

Family Reunion

Wild Guess Preview: Weirdness abounds when someone spikes Stephen J. Cannell’s drink with mescaline and the A-Team is sent to “just hang out” at a family party – specifically, Mama’s Family. Face falls in love with Betty White’s Ellen character, while B.A. gets into an alligator-wrestling contest with the son, Vinton. Then Redd Foxx shows up, just because, and performs part of his “Sex and Orange Juice” album.

The Recap: Stockwell’s on his plane, looking over some paperwork. “This may be the most important document ever to come into my possession,” he tells some brunette that isn’t Carla. “He wants to trade the rest of it to have Thanksgiving with his daughter.” He meaning… Larry King? “He wants the A-Team, and he knows I’ve got them,” Stockwell adds, approving the mission to bring “him” even though it’s not a typical A-Team mission. “The information in this diary could bring down half the men in Washington” and so “it” is worth it. These Stockwell opening sequences are like A-Team Mad Libs: “If the A-Team can find (PROPER NAME) and retrieve the (OBJECT), then we can make sure that (FOREIGN COUNTRY) can’t build the new type of (WEAPON) for Project (NORSE GOD).”

The team is thinking about family, too; it’s Thanksgiving. Face is sending out his, uh, Thanksgiving cards, while Frankie telling B.A. that he’s spending the holiday away from his parents for the first time. Murdock is bent out of shape, too, but not because of his family. He works at a turkey farm, and can’t bring himself to turn any of his bird friends into dinner. Hannibal busts in with a lovely lady at his side and he, at least, is feeling good; “Hannibal’s famous four-day turkey eating experience is about to begin,” he explains. Murdock confesses his lack of turkey; Hannibal understands; he promises to make some soup for Howlin’ Mad, but as for the others, “we’ve got to have a turkey.” Stockwell walks in, and Hannibal quips “I think he’s too big for the pot.”

No holiday for the A-Team, apparently; instead, they have to “reunite a wanted criminal and his daughter… and in the process, bring down half the crooked politicians in Washington.” The criminal here is A.J. Bancroft, who was a powerful politician “until his indiscretions were discovered.” A.J. has promised to turn over a diary he’s kept, one that outlines all his crooked political contacts, in exchange for seeing his daughter for Thanksgiving. Hannibal says having such a diary would give Stockwell a lot of clout in Washington, but the general says no, “blackmail’s not my style.” “Then how’d I get here?” Frankie asks.

We all just got to Florida, the team is meeting Bancroft in St. Augustine. Frankie and Face are reading over the files on Bancroft in the awesome van; Murdock is making phone calls and getting very bummed when “Erica’s not home.” Who? “Murdock’s got a girlfriend,” Hannibal says. Well, sort of; she’s watching Murdock’s hamster, Roger, while he’s away! “It isn’t often that a girl offers to take care of a guy’s… rodent,” Face teases, though he also wonders if A.J.’s daughter, Ellen, will even want to see her corrupt dad after twenty years apart.

And what of that diary? One of the dudes who’s almost certainly in there is Jacob Edwards. He’s testifying before a Congressional committee because he’s been nominated for some kind of financial auditor job at the Pentagon. (Edwards, by the way, is played by John Carter. Remember the “Showdown” episode, where there’s a fake A-Team hassling a Wild West show? John Carter played fake Hannibal.) His buddy Owens calls him on Capitol Hill and warns him that “Bancroft is on his way into the country.” “He’s come back to pull me down,” Edwards says, “but he’ll want to see his daughter first. Be there when he does.”

Frankie sprays the fire extinguisher
So what’s in there, exactly? Marshmallow fluff? Twinkie filling?

Hannibal sends Frankie and B.A. to Ellen’s apartment. “Your father sent us,” says the big guy. “He wants to talk to you.” Ellen says she’ll go, but as she packs she wonders why this is happening. “What am I supposed to say to the man?” How about “I love it when a family comes together”? Owens and his men are there, too, so our guys have to flee; Frankie sprays the dudes with the fire extinguisher. They all fall down the stairs and our heroes head out in the van.

Face, Hannibal and Murdock have brought the elder Bancroft to a restaurant for the big reunion. He’s asking Murdock all about Face, from how he got his nickname to how he manages to be a loyal friend and a great scammer. “He’d rip the shirt off his back for you,” Murdock explains. “Then he’d go out and scam one for himself.” Ellen walks in, and the team heads to a nearby table to give father and daughter a chance to talk. But Face notices that Ellen goes off to the ladies’ room without bringing her purse. “Maybe that’s cause she has no intention of returning,” Murdock says. Hannibal, too, realizes this is fishy, so he grabs the purse, runs outside and chucks it into the water, where it explodes. Whew.

Face's football picture
Face and his emo sister. Shouldn’t she have a poster of The Cure in the background?

Ellen runs outside too – right into Hannibal. “I didn’t know it was a bomb, I swear!” she says. “Sure, lady.” Murdock helps Bancroft out of the restaurant, explaining that “Ellen” was an impostor, but as they leave, Bancroft drops a set of photos on the floor. One photo is of a younger Ellen… and another is Face, in his high school football uniform! What the hell? “Templeton Peck is my son,” Bancroft says. His what?

A.J. Bancroft explains that long before he became a famous financial and political character, he was married to his sweetheart, and they had a boy, whom they named Richard. But “things began to fall apart almost immediately” and so they split up. Bancroft went off to New York and made millions, though he claims he did try to find Face. Murdock is really fired up and wants to tell Face right away, but Bancroft begs him to hold off; he’s dying, you see, and wants to right some wrongs before he shovels off this mortal coil. Murdock promises to hold off telling Face, but only so Bancroft can do it himself.

B.A. punches Owens
A clothing rack that pities fools!

Fake Ellen meets with Real Owens at some kind of office, and she directs him toward a storage room so they can meet. This is Hannibal’s idea; we know this because the storage room is storing B.A.’s fist!

Owens in a steam machine
In true Looney Tunes fashion, Owens is like four inches tall after this.

The team takes Owens to a steam room, where they put him in one of those personal steam bath machines and ask where the real Ellen is. Owens won’t talk, so B.A. says “cook the sucka!” Recipe cards should have instructions like that, shouldn’t they? “Pour at least half the baste into the pot and then COOK THE SUCKA.” Long story short, Owens says “Edwards has the girl, not me.” Bancroft is not surprised; Edwards was once his political ally, and “the last half of my diary is devoted to him.”

Next stop is Muller’s Junk Yard. “I thought we were going to see Edwards,” Bancroft says, reading my thoughts perfectly. Hannibal says they will see Edwards, but they’re going to do so in a way that gets Ellen out of his clutches without putting her in danger. That means attaching a metal jaw-like thing on the front of the van, though there’s no montage so it’s not that joyful. Murdock pulls Face aside to tell him about Bancroft being his father, but loses his nerve at the last moment. “It can wait,” he says. Bancroft is watching, and is grateful Murdock didn’t tell.

Edwards returns home to his fancy pad. Owens is there, tied up. Hannibal’s there too, sitting at the desk. “We didn’t like the turkey you sent us, so we brought him back.” Edwards: “A.J. has hired the A-Team. Incredible.” He offers a deal: give him A.J. and get Ellen, but Hannibal says no, “you’d kill ’em both.” Edwards calls for his guards with a foot pedal under his desk, which he thinks he’s very clever, but the guards are actually Frankie and B.A. so Hannibal’s more clever. The colonel tells him to bring Ellen to a designated spot that evening, and the teamers leave. Owens apologizes and tells Edwards, with a little time, he can “take those guys,” but Edwards doesn’t believe it. “Nobody’s gonna take the A-Team.”

Murdock follows the bad guys to a warehouse, where they pick up Ellen. He radios this news to Hannibal, so when the dudes drive off, they find the awesome van on their heels. B.A. gets Owens’s car to flip over just with a little sideswipe action, The other vehicle? Well, they grab its rear side with that metal jaw thing and hit the brakes. Frankie holds the goons at gunpoint while Face grabs Ellen. But there’s a catch: Owens has hidden a homing device in Ellen’s bracelet. Edwards is thrilled when the team drives away: “Give her time to settle, then track them down and remove them.”

Murdock talks to a clown
Murdock finds his emotional center. It’s right where you’d expect.

The team goes to Wendy’s. Seriously; Face has burgers for everybody. But it’s not their final destination; Hannibal says they need to get to a cabin at Osceola National Park for the Bancroft family reunion, and to shake Edwards and his men for a while. Murdock has snuck away on the pretense of checking on his hamster, but he’s really calling the orphanage for info on Face. They don’t have any, but hey, at least he tried. Murdock gives a touching soliloquy here about how Face has a right to know that he has a family. The fact that he says all this to a clown puppet with a glowing red nose doesn’t dampen the emotional effect… much.

The cabins look pretty nice, a lot like the ones from the Crystal Lake episode at the end of Season Three. This time, Murdock isn’t fishing, at least not in the water. He’s on the van phone again, trying to get info on his buddy. Face interrupts him and says he’s noticed Murdock’s been acting real funny-like. Murdock pretends he’s acting funny because of Erica the girlfriend, but he does ask Face for advice: if he’d been asked to keep a secret from a close friend, what should he do? Face says go with your gut instinct.

A bear
You can get commando ideas from anywhere, even the camping scene in “The Parent Trap”

Owens has an instinct to bust in on the team and finish off Bancroft; he’s following the homing signal on Ellen outside her cabin. He and his men storm in… and find a giant bear. They get tossed through the cabin windows. Face scammed a bear? With hand-to-hand fighting skills?

Face and Bancroft
With all his dating prowess, you have to figure Face will be having a similar conversation with his own long-lost kid in 40 or 50 years

Bancroft is propped up in a comfy looking bed, talking to Ellen about his many “errors in judgment,” starting with leaving Ellen and her mother. Ellen is still pretty mad at him – “you didn’t even come to her funeral!” she says, of the mom. A.J. gets teary-eyed as she storms out to “get some air.” Face overhears all this and checks on A.J., who invites him in. “Reaching across twenty years isn’t easy,” Bancroft explains. “I assumed I had a lot of time to correct the damage I’ve done.” This reminds Face of a poem he learned at the orphanage: “Look to this day… for yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.” Awww. Bancroft is touched. “Any father would be proud of you,” he says. Face: “Well, I’m also a wanted criminal…” Ha.

Frankie and B.A. are out on patrol as Face heads out to find Ellen, and encourages her to talk with her dad, even if it’s difficult: “If that was my father back there, in that cabin,” he says, dripping dramatic irony all over the wooden bench, “I’d want to find out everything I could about him.” “What if you didn’t like what you found out?” she asks. At least she’d get the chance to know firsthand, Face says. “You’re afraid that you’ll love him,” he adds, and she knows he’s right. So she comes back in and talks with A.J. some more. Hallmark Holidays presents The A-Team?

Dang, Murdock’s pulling out the big guns and calling Stockwell! Big surprise, he’s not going to help. “A.J. says he’s Face’s father,” he says. “Whether he is or is not is of no concern to me or your mission.” But Murdock will not be denied: “I’m a lot closer to that precious diary of yours than you are, General. Need I say more?” Ok, Stockwell says he’ll help. Murdock is happy about this, so he goes to help Face with groceries. Face is feeling like this is going to be a good Thanksgiving – “and after it’s over, I’m going to ask Ellen out.” Oh lord. Murdock tries hard to dissuade the guy, but Face says he feels a strong connection to Ellen somehow, that she’s just his type. All Murdock can say is “other women are your type!”

They have to put this little drama aside for a moment, because Owens and his men are driving up, and they need to be punched, kicked, hit with garbage cans and thrown through the general store windows. They drive back to the cabin in a hurry and warn the others: “Ellen, you better get your father,” Face says, “we gotta move.” Ellen says that won’t be necessary; A.J. just died. B.A.: “WHAT?”

Burying A.J.
The A-Team buries Dobby at Shell Cottage. Er, no.

They bury A.J., uh, somewhere. “I’m sure Stockwell knew he was dying,” B.A. says. “Doesn’t matter now,” Hannibal adds. Except that it matters to Murdock, who stops at the grave and says to A.J. “you ran out on him again…. at least you were consistent.” He buries the Ellen/Face dual photo frame and walks off to tell Face.

Hoo boy, Face is upset. “What kind of a friend are you?” he shouts. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Murdock says A.J. begged him not to, that he wanted to tell Face himself. Face doesn’t care – he feels like he’s been left out of everything. “Who else did you tell? Hannibal? B.A.?” No, says Murdock – “just you, me, and… Stockwell knows.” Agh, not good. Face is crushed. “You were always the one I thought I could count on,” he says. Murdock tries to help his buddy but Face shoves him to the ground. Murdock gets all emotional and says he was following his gut instinct, just like Face advised him; if A.J. hadn’t died, “you would be thanking me for not telling.” Except that he did die, but whatever. Now Face feels bad, but Murdock says their relationship is such that they don’t have to “stumble over our lips apologizing.” Cool.

This touching reconciliation comes just in time for Owens and his flunkies to drop by. Owens tells the goons that “this is our last chance… either we bury these people or we can forget about going home.” “Bury these people” – More dramatic irony! They demand Bancroft give himself up. “You want him?” Hannibal asks, smiling. “You got him.” And they send out a remote controlled dummy in a wheelchair. “It’s a dummy!” Owens yells. True, but it’s an exploding dummy, and the kaboom gives the team a chance to blow up and/or flip over the thugs’ trucks and capture all the dudes.

Almost all the dudes. “We’re missing one weasel,” Hannibal says. “And that one belongs to Ellen.” That would be Edwards, who’s just about to be confirmed by the Congressional committee. (Stockwell is in the gallery here; got to give him points in the “omnipresent creepy agent” category.) Ellen barges in and demands to speak; she hands the committee copies of A.J.’s diary and points out how they implicated Edwards. The committee decides to hold off on the confirmation to read the diary. Edwards is freaked. The committee is concerned. Stockwell is satisfied and walks out.

Face is somber, though; he’s watching Ellen stand at A.J.’s grave, while he and Murdock pace in the distance. Stockwell’s about to call with the final word on Face’s parentage, you see. “I never knew what it was like to have a father,” he says. “How am I supposed to know what it’s like to lose one?” Stockwell calls Murdock, and yep, A.J. was Face’s dad. Faceman walks up to Ellen and puts his arm on her shoulder. The end.

Some good moments, although it was a bit sappy for my tastes. Somber, serious Face episodes don’t seem to cut it with me. At least this one didn’t also feature Markie Post, I guess.


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