There ain’t nothing more action-packed than a foot race between Dirk Benedict and Dean Stockwell.
Wow, check this out! It’s like the A-Team started covering the news!
Ok, it’s not exactly like the A-Team covering the news. Aside from the woman at the beginning sort of being like Triple A in that she’s a journalist, there aren’t any obvious parallels to other team members. That said, they do have a pretty fancy van, and you’d have to be on the jazz to have music like that as your local news theme. Maybe the A-Team was becoming not just an 80’s television show but a sort of semiotic touchstone for its time. Oh, this was produced before the A-Team? Never mind. Let’s get on with this week’s episode:
A Small and Deadly War
Wild Guess Preview: While hiding from Colonel Lynch in Nevada, the A-Team lands smack in the middle of a violent struggle between the retirees who still have teeth left and the diabolical June Allyson and her gang of Denture Diablos. Hannibal manages to turn them back by converting a handful of Werther’s Originals into a neutron bomb.
The Recap: OH YEAH Dean Stockwell guest stars! We’re on the mean streets of L.A., where Officer Dean and three other crooked cops pull over an older-looking coughing guy named Maloney, who is also a cop. Coughy McGee tells the cops “you’re not cops, you’re killers!” They agree to disagree, and by that I mean they threaten to kill Maloney’s daughter if he spills the beans on all their corrupt goings-on. If he’s such a problem, why not just kill him too? Anyway, they drive off and Maloney decides to cope with his troubles by traveling back in time to an alehouse in 1930’s Dublin.
Ok, not really, but the bar is apparently tended by James Doohan and the only other client is an old Irish boxer who once “knocked down Floyd Patterson.” Dude, who didn’t? It’s really Hannibal in one of his disguises; after revealing his true identity, Maloney gives a very Jack Webb-ish monologue about how he’s a good cop and if circumstances were different he’d take the A-Team down to the military police himself! But if there’s one thing he hates more than fugitives it’s corrupt cops – in particular, this group of SWAT officers. They’re led by a captain named Stark, who was injured during a stakeout and invented a fancy red and gold armored suit to wear while he fought crime. Maloney says he knows they’ve killed at least seven people so far, and that’s not even counting Captain America. The A-Team is initially suspicious, but Maloney hands over all the money in the world and they take the job.
Yet the team is worried: B.A. points out that SWAT stands for “Special Weapons and Tactics… that’s our bag. It’ll be like going up against ourselves.” They’re not dealing with meth-fueled cultists or bumbling small-town sheriffs, this is the real deal. “Exciting, isn’t it?” laughs Hannibal. Face gives us an odd soliloquy about dreaming of being a cop while growing up in the orphanage. His favorite show was Dragnet!
Roach spraying: a huge part of the 80’s entertainment zeitgeist
Hannibal’s plan kicks off with Triple A and Face dropping by police headquarters in a pest control van – “Drop Dead Pest Control.” I once saw an episode of “Love Boat” where Jimmie “Dy-no-mite!” Walker was a wacky exterminator trying to win back his girlfriend. Was pest control a social issue in the early 80’s, or did they just have extra denim jumpsuits at all the production houses back then? Face notes “everybody hates roaches;” the efficacy of the plan thus explained, they head in and use their phony fumigation as a cover to break into the corrupt cops’ lockers and place B.A.’s electronic bugs on the buttons of their coats. “You brought me along to sew?” says Triple A. “How wonderfully sexist.” Hannibal wants backup, so after they finish the bugging, Face springs Murdock from the mental hospital with a story about tuberculosis; ever up for a good scam, Murdock works up a mighty cough and breathes into his glove for dramatic effect, all the while asking who’s going to watch his beloved (and invisible) pet dog Billy (!)
“The fields for Murdock have no medicinal leaf/And the vexed glove no mineral of power…”
Hannibal and B.A. listen into the cops discuss their scams, which they apparently only do for money. Stark tells Dean Stockwell to kill a laundromat dude named Delgado, so I guess they make their dough by taking quarters out of the dryers? The now-assembled A-Team drives in the van to head them off, which they do pretty easily. “You’re shut down,” Hannibal tells them. “Take that back to Stark.” Then he adds, “And have him tell Thor that his powers are stupid.” Soon the team recognizes Hannibal’s plan as one they tried once in Vietnam – and they don’t like it. Face notes that he took a bullet in the leg during that plan. Murdock notes he was shot down during that plan. B.A. says “that was a terrible plan!” Hannibal says it’ll work better now that they’ve gotten the kinks worked out of it. He places a call inside the diner to Stark, just as Dean Stockwell sexually harasses the waitress. There’s nothing good about seeing Dean Stockwell try to love up a lady, folks. Stark is unnerved by Hannibal’s phone call and thinks everything is now bugged, so he’s going to hide out at Bonnie’s house, who I guess is his girlfriend. Any guesses where we’re going next?
To be fair, I’d be paranoid if I saw this outside my door too.
Yep, we’re at Bonnie’s, and Murdock is enlisted to drop in on Stark as a singing flower delivery dude. He puts wings on his hat and sings a cheerful ditty about hearses! Stark is flipping out at this point and starts knocking over his girlfriend’s furniture, convinced her place is bugged. The girlfriend tries to seduce Stark with her sexy leg warmers, but Hannibal places a well-timed call to mess with Stark again. Stark calls for a meeting that night, Hannibal agrees. B.A. notes that Hannibal is on the jazz.
It’s night. They meet. Stark orders two of the cops to take sniper positions and blow the A-Team away, but since the team is listening to everything they say Face and Murdock easily overtake them. Hannibal tells Stark they either confess to the chief in the morning or they’re all dead. Again, B.A. shakes his head about Hannibal being on the jazz. Stark shakes his head, too, but I suspect he hasn’t been briefed on the jazz yet.
In other words, don’t expect a guest appearance from Germaine Greer on this show.
The next morning Stark somehow figures out about the bugs and smashes them to pieces, saying it’s “time I make my move.” But Hannibal, guided by the jazz, is already making a move, or rather, Triple A is. She’s pretending her car is busted, and sticks her hinder out for the lascivious Dean Stockwell (ewww) to see. Dean gives her a ride on his motorbike… straight into the clutches of the A-Team, who demands he turn state’s evidence on the other cops. Dean says no because Stark won’t like that, and besides, the cops have worked up a brilliant plan, and proceeds to tell them the whole plan because he’s such a dumb tool. Hannibal tells him to give the evidence and a signed confession to Maloney (yeah, remember him?). Dean Stockwell says sure. But little do we all know, Stark and the other cops planted a bug on him! And now they’re going to show up at the rendezvous with Maloney. That’s the first time these dudes have done anything close to competent, much less live up to their billing as a rogue killing squad on par with the A-Team.
Sox fans, Mr. T can tell if you didn’t call 1-800-54-GIANT
The meeting place is Oceanside Amusement Park. It’s very run-down and completely empty, because a local resident is dressing up as a ghost to scare everyone away while he loots the secret hidden treasure. So not only will the A-Team finish off an A-Team foe, they’re going to unmask a Scooby Doo villain too! Dean Stockwell shows up and gives Face the evidence, with Hannibal hiding in plain sight as a statue of a gunslinger. One of the other cops is nearby, and says into his walkie-talkie the classic line: “I got ’em by the ring toss!” Stockwell, Face, Murdock and B.A. go into what looks like a hot dog stand, and the cops unload a lot of bullets into the building. But when they check their handiwork, there’s nothing there! The A-Team was hiding in the rafters, and they come a crashing down to rain some fisticuffs on the crooked cops. This leads to a series of foot chases, and believe me, there ain’t nothing more action-packed than a foot race between Dirk Benedict and Dean Stockwell! Murdock catches his dude pretty easily, while Hannibal and Stark end up fighting inside one of the aerial tram cars. Actually this is understandable because they’re never particularly exciting rides and the scenic views include more barf and dropped sno-cones than mountains or valleys. Stark bails out so he can make a getaway in his car, but B.A. jumps onto the car and punches through the windshield, which causes the car to spin out and flip over! “Who are you guys?” moans an exasperated, defeated Stark. Wait, wasn’t there a fourth cop? Did he wet himself and run away, or did he get defeated and I missed it?
It’s nighttime, and we get an uncredited ADR of a dispatcher notifying the military police that Hannibal, Face and B.A. are at a cocktail lounge with Maloney. My god, that’s EXACTLY how they killed Dillinger! Just as B.A. lets everyone know they’ve been spotted and have to split, Hannibal gives Maloney most of his money back. Maloney, stunned, shakes his head: “Why do they do it?” Triple A: “For the jazz.”
Now this isn’t going to be a feminist’s favorite episode, when Triple A goes from building propane rockets to light sewing and showing off her backside to Dean Stockwell, but there are plenty of fun moments elsewhere. A good Murdock mental hospital scene alone can lift anyone’s spirits. (I should start dropping by retirement homes and playing these episodes, just to bring some happiness to the residents.) The only real flaw with the series so far is that the A-Team’s enemies are brought down pretty easily every time. Even Superman has his weakness to Kryptonite, after all. So what will be the A-Team’s kryptonite? A lack of jazz? Perhaps we’ll find out soon.