There aren’t any ‘Dorf’ books about renegade commando teams… are there?

I’m writing this entry from the doctor’s waiting room, because the A-Team waits for no man, not even one I pay for expensive medical services. Actually it’s because a big part of this project for me is about developing some kind of self-discipline, to make time to do things that are important to me, and so if I end up in the waiting room, that’s how it’s gonna go down. Hold on doc, I’m writing about TV!

That being said, I also want to make sure I don’t turn into one of those laptop guys you see at every cafe and business conference. At first glance laptop guys look all serious and determined, hunched over their screens, faces screwed up in concentration. Then you peer over and they’re doing nothing more urgent than tweeting something self-referential like “at Starbucks. Expensive, high-calorie scone + wi-fi FOR THE WIN.” So I’m walking a fine line here: I’ll take the A-Team project wherever life takes me, but I will not order a scone when I do. Luckily, the doctor’s office doesn’t have scones. Things are going my way.

The Out-of-Towners

Wild Guess Preview: Once again in need of some R&R, the A-Team heads to a bed and breakfast in Vermont run by an old army buddy of Hannibal’s (played by Tom Poston of “Newhart”). The place has seen better days, so Hannibal concocts a plan to liven it up by putting on a fancy song-and-dance show for all their old military friends, just like in “White Christmas.” (Don’t miss B.A. and Murdock performing “Sisters”!) Colonel Lynch thinks this is a jolly chance to capture the A-Team, but then Tom Poston’s mild-mannered character goes on a killing spree and the team has to blow him up with explosives instead of build him up with song, dance and laughter. The only episode of “The A-Team” co-written by Irving Berlin and David Mamet.

The Recap: Ok, we’re going not to rural Vermont but to New York City! I’m enjoying this sort of “Magical Mystery Tour” era where each week’s mission is in a different part of the country. On the other hand, there’s really only so many major urban crime syndicates; if this keeps up, I’m worried that Season 5 will feature the A-Team fighting “the number one hood in Poughkeepsie” or something. From the looks of it, the A-Team is taking on a protection scheme led by Yaphet Kotto, who’s been in “Live and Let Die” and “The Running Man” and (my favorite) played the kooky villain of “Truck Turner.” Kotto was awesome as a violent pimp who pushed over hospital patients as he fled a revenge-minded Isaac Hayes, so this should be fun.

We’re in a tough part of town, where a kid who I think is the same kid who played Joey in episode 4, “Pros and Cons,” is shining shoes outside of a store. A really old and really egg-shaped old man comes out to check on him, but Yaphet Kotto and his flunkies pull up in a scary limo and… get a shoe shine. Oh, that’s just a cover while the other dude, a sort of Donald Pleasance-lite, roughs up the old man inside the store.

Back in L.A., Hannibal, B.A. and Murdock are… going through airport security? We get a glimpse of the pre-9/11 mindset when a scared guard lets a growling B.A. through the gate with his million pounds of gold on. B.A. is going on the plane under protest; the closer they get to boarding the more reluctant he gets. Hannibal tries to reassure him and offers some pills “for airsickness,” but they’re really knockout drops. Hannibal is impressed by his own cleverness! And now they’re flying to New York City.

Mercenary Quarterly ad
Mercenary Quarterly: A Renegade Division of Congressional Quarterly

And now they’re in New York City, where Face has procured a taxicab as their primary means of conveyance, and a pretty good disguise if you want to tail somebody. Face introduces the team to Tracey: her parents make Danish or something, and they’re among the victims of Kotto’s shakedown. Face and Triple A have set up a fake TV repair store across the street so they can monitor the thugs as they come through the neighborhood. Hannibal is pleased with everything except their weapon supply; Face had to scam the guns out of an ad in – and this is the actual name of the magazine – “Mercenary Quarterly.”

Night falls, and the team meets with the shopkeepers, who are having second thoughts about standing up to the protection racket. They also say they don’t have enough money left to hire the team – did no one think to consider the logistics here? Luckily, the kid who’s almost Joey gives all the money he has left to B.A. – three bucks and 68 cents. B.A.’s underprivileged kid sensor goes off, and they take the mission anyway. I have a feeling we will see a punch and then hear the words “That’s for a little boy who looks like another little boy named Joey” at some point tonight!

B.A. drives a cab
The moment that sparked a thousand unfunny ideas in Joel Schumacher’s head

The team opens their fake shop the next morning, and the evil limo pulls up almost immediately. The team has an elaborate surveillance operation in place: Face and Murdock are manning the camera, Triple A is pushing a “baby” in a “stroller,” and B.A. IS DRIVING A TAXICAB! It’s the scene that launched “D.C. Cab”! They drop by the fake shop, where Hannibal is pretending to be a blind TV repairman from central Europe (“my nephew helps,” he explains). They punch Hannibal and steal his money. Then they punch Face and head out in their evil limo, and B.A. follows in the cab. PLEASE tell me Paul Rodriguez doesn’t also show up. Hannibal has a cracked rib, but insists he still loves it when a plan comes together. Face has an injured pinky finger.

Murdock and B.A. are off to find garbage
Murdock WANTS YOU to leave your trash on the curb

B.A. follows the thugs to the Sugar Hill Club as they meet up with Charlie Struthers, aka East Side Charlie, aka Yaphet Kotto, and then he reports back to the team. He and Triple A (who did some research on “the computer”) spell out Charlie’s scene: he’s running numbers, loan sharking, extortion, being a jerk to his girlfriend, etc., but he manages to keep his own hands clean. Clean? Not for long: Face has procured a giant garbage truck for Hannibal’s plan. Unfortunately he was unable to find any garbage. This is a problem: Hannibal wants garbage. Face is defensive and says he couldn’t get garbage. Hannibal says he needs garbage for the plan. Face says then Hannibal should’ve told him that he needed garbage for the plan. Murdock, who’s been unusually lucid and serious during this episode, makes peace and says he and B.A. will go find some garbage. Then Lucid Murdock vanishes forever and Crazy Fool Murdock returns to celebrate the imminent trash run. “The thing I love about the A-Team is that it gives you such diversity… career diversity!” B.A. fires back with a catchphrase loved by millions: “You’re a garbageman, fool!” They collect garbage.

Hannibal and Face go to the Sugar Hill Club and confront Charlie about the protection racket, and to bill him $166,200 for extorted funds, damages and “collection fees.” Charlie laughs this off, but Hannibal pulls out a machine gun and starts shooting, and then gives him a deadline of noon tomorrow. Then B.A. drives the garbage truck through the dumps all the trash they collected right into the club. Hannibal fires a few more rounds: “drinks are on the house!” Then they leave. Charlie is not happy. “Get those suckers! The guy who gets them stays alive!”

Charlie wants his thugs to get some other thugs so they can show up early the next morning. “We’re gonna have us a block party.” But Hannibal has already gotten the permits and zebra clapboards (really, they line them up at the end of the street!) so he’s throwing the party. Murdock is welding and B.A. is wrapping up stacks of dynamite; they appear to be building a rocket ship to Mars, or maybe a bomb. Ah, it’s definitely a manhole bomb. Murdock and one of the shopkeepers put another bomb in place, and we get a glimpse of the “Mid-city Youth Center” sign. No wonder B.A. wanted to help these people out so bad! One of the locals notes that Hannibal is doing all these preparations even though he’s not sure he’ll be paid. So why do it? “Anyone can spend his afternoons playing golf,” he says. “But don’t you think this is more fun?” True, and there aren’t any “Dorf” books about renegade commando teams… are there?

Dorf Beyond Thunderdome poster

Oh crud. Anyway, Charlie and his chums call “the boys” and two dozen dudes pile into two seventies cars and drive over to the neighborhood, where he cheerfully announces that he will make everyone pay for trying not to pay. “Even when they play dirty, they play dirty,” jokes Face. “Yeah,” replies Hannibal. “But we play dirtier.” The thugs start shooting and so does Hannibal. Face is up on a balcony lobbing Molotov cocktails at the thugs. Murdock starts shooting from inside an oil barrel, with cute earmuffs on to protect his hearing! The thugs start to high-tail it, but then B.A. shows up in the huge oversized novelty garbage truck and smacks the thugs’ cars around until they surrender. The limo of doom runs down the street and runs into Murdock’s barrel, but Triple A detonates the manhole bomb and they go kaplooey. We get closure when B.A. smacks the guy who hit the little kid and says “Next time, pick on somebody your own size!” They pack Charlie into the taxi to go get the money. Face tells Hannibal “I know you love it when a plan comes together,” but this is dubbed over whatever he originally said because it makes no sense.

Now the team is heading back to L.A. on a commercial flight, or are they? No, they’re all asking Face for a ride in his scammed taxi. B.A. wants to lure the almost-Joey kid into his child labor camp to make ashtrays, Triple A is visiting an old boyfriend at the New York Times (William Safire?) and Hannibal just wants to go back to the airport. Face protests: he has to return the taxi or he’ll get yelled at by the dispatcher who loaned it to him, but suddenly the dispatcher drives up – and it’s Reba McEntire! And she’s got eyes for Face. And we close with one of those TV moments where all the characters start laughing for essentially no reason.

I guess I can’t expect every episode to be tremendously great, much as I’d like, and this was not a tremendously great episode. The premise was sound, but it just never quite came together. Yaphet Kotto never seemed to have enough to do, the whole “B.A. is digging Charlie’s girlfriend” subplot didn’t go anywhere, and the team’s usual wisecracking was replaced with cranky bickering. I’m not emotionally strong enough to see the A-Team angrily hashing out logistics problems! And why was Murdock so sane in the first half and so crazy in the second? There’s a lot that doesn’t add up here. On the other hand, “You’re a garbageman, fool!” is a catchphrase for all occasions, so it’s not a total wash. And they did pick up some trash, so even when the A-Team isn’t in peak form, at least they’re civic-minded.

Ok, doc, I’m ready to see you now.

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