A long montage of a truck repair, stock footage of elephants… the word ‘padded’ does leap to mind.

No one believes me when I say this, but amid the bombs, bluster and bonhomie that characterized the first season of The A-Team was an unexpected sweetness. I’ll let you finish laughing before I explain.

I know it’s not what you’d expect – philanthropy via commando mission isn’t exactly the selling point of the show – but seriously, under the team’s rough-and-tumble exterior is really a swell bunch of guys who right wrongs mostly just to be nice. They’re basically the cast of “Highway to Heaven,” except their weapon of choice is grenades instead of grizzled character actor Victor French.

Just to be sure, I tried finding out what the cast members did for charity outside of the show. And while I did find a number of things – Dwight Schultz, for example, was linked to some kind of group fighting childhood arthritis – but the most important thing I found was this interview with Mr. T on Beliefnet. The whole thing is worth a read, but my favorite moment is when he describes how his reality show is unique: “It’s a reality show [but] we’re not eating worms, we’re not naked, we’re not having sex with nobody, we’re not wrestling pigs and stuff like that.” This isn’t strictly charity, but you have to assume that soup kitchens all over America were posting those inspirational words on every surface they could find. It’s food for the soul, clearly.

So with that, it’s on to Season Two!

Diamonds ‘N’ Dust

Wild Guess Preview: The A-Team is hired by the mom-and-pop diamond industry, which is being run out of business by the new cubic zirconia manufacturers and their thuggish CEO. Hannibal’s bizarre plan involves starting up a new radio station to play all your favorite hits and dusties (hence the “dust” in the title); weirdly, it’s so successful that Hannibal buys out not only the cubic zirconia people but the Moo ‘n’ Oink grocery chain and the Pump ‘n’ Loaf gas station franchise, AND he convinces Peaches and a reluctant Herb to do away with “and” and rename their duo Peaches ‘n’ Herb!

The Recap: So the opening sequence is a little different; now it starts “In 1972” because it’s not “Ten years ago” anymore. Also we get some new action shots of the team during the credit montage, most notably Murdock as a bride. Sadly, these are the only new shots we get of the team for a few minutes, as there’s a long stock footage sequence to establish that we’re in Africa. An evil Mr. Fletcher sits at a desk and instructs some near-Australians to stop some guy in a pickup truck from doing god knows what. So they shoot out his tire and his windshield, and then the whole truck blows up. The old feller runs for it, only it’s hardly running – it’s maybe Benny Hill running, and that’s being generous.

B.A., Murdock and Bogey Bear
It’s the cuddliest commando ever! And the bear’s pretty cute, too

And there’s more shooting at a carnival, where Hannibal is dressed as a carny and introducing a blond lady named Toby Griffin to the team. Murdock has a new friend in Bogey Bear, who is kind of cute but still bugs B.A. Triple A, who’s sporting a new Pam Dawber-ish haircut, explains that Griffin’s dad, the Benny Hill running guy, moved to southern Africa to look for a diamond mine but then got killed. (Just to be clear, the show goes to great pains to invent a country called Zilabwe, which is in southern Africa but not South Africa, so while this is the era of apartheid, the series is not playing Sun City.) Face accepts a medium-sized, uncut diamond as a deposit on their fee, and they promise to regroup in Africa in two days. B.A., true to form, says he’s not flying there! “Of course not, B.A.” says Hannibal, and the next thing we see is the team wheeling a drugged B.A. onto an airplane as “Chief Baracus” who has to be in surgery in Johannesburg.

And we move to Africa, so don’t expect to see the van; instead, the team drives in a maroon K-car. B.A. wakes up and realizes he’s been duped again. “I’m getting tired of all these tricks you keep playing on me! This is the last time!” Toby meets them at a bar, where she says she got them all the supplies they asked for except for dynamite – Face and Murdock have to go get it themselves. They walk outside, dig through the bar’s garbage and find a uniform and – how timely – an invoice for dynamite.

I should mention that the bartender is one of evil Mr. Fletcher’s henchmen, and this brings up something I still don’t understand about the A-Team: don’t criminals have bureaucracies? Every low-rent thug on this show has a direct line to the top guy in his organization, be he a diamond smuggler in Africa or a mob kingpin in Vegas. You have to wonder if their schemes fail not just because the A-Team shows up but because of poor human resource management.

Face and Murdock as UN weapon inspectors
To be honest, I hate them! I mean, pretending they’re so f_____g weapons inspector – eh, superior!

Anyway, Murdock and Face visit the local dynamite supplier, who’s inexplicably Cockney, and they pretend to be United Nations weapons inspectors. Murdock’s British persona is hysterical, he accuses the dynamite dude of being insufficiently British! “I see no kippers, no English herringbone tweeds, no meat pies, no Rolls Royce petrol caps, no original pressings of ‘Hey Jude’…” Then they “confiscate” all the dynamite on the grounds that it has no state seals on it. The Cockney guy is miffed but not so miffed that he refers to anyone as “guv.”

The three thugs who shot at the Benny Hill dude show up at the bar and try to threaten the team for helping Griffin, but Hannibal and B.A. beat them up. They also beat up the bartender, and they beat up the other guy who was drinking quietly at the corner table. The lead goon, Schechter, has to call Mr. Fletcher’s gold-plated phone and explain that he failed, all the while giving off a sort of wounded John Hurt vibe.

Fletcher sends Schechter and goons to head the team off before they reach the Griffin mine, which leads to a big gunfight… for a while. That’s another puzzling trend on this show: heroes and villains spend most of the hour stockpiling massive amounts of ordnance, and then resolve every battle with kicks and punches. The thugs ask what’s to be done with them, and they dream up a number of scary torturous punishments before… letting them go? Murdock’s Bogey Bear is shot up during the gunfight, as is the team’s truck, which has a busted wheel and axle. Luckily, Face says he saw an abandoned truck just over a nearby hill; Toby’s dad’s old truck, as it turns out. She gets all emotional over the truck, but she cheers up when B.A. promises to make Fletcher pay and then starts the weekly montage. They fix the truck and drive on toward the mine; they also have to fend off a vicious herd of stock footage elephants (?!?). A long montage of a truck repair, stock footage of elephants pacing back and forth… the word “padded” does leap to mind for this episode.

Thumbs-up from B.A.
B.A. says thumbs-up to padding the episode!

They drive to the pass just before the mine, and Hannibal stops, because there’s a big cliff on either side and it’s a perfect spot to be ambushed. So they decide to scale the cliff wall instead, a job made trickier in that they’re still lugging around dynamite. One explosive slips out of B.A.’s pack and blows up just as Fletcher’s thugs show up in a jeep. So it took them less time to walk miles and miles back to Fletcher’s place and return in a jeep than it did for the team to scale about a 20 foot wall on a rope? They start shooting, as does Fletcher, who’s in a helicopter (ah, I see the endgame here). The team holes up in the mine, where they discover – surprise! – a lot of mining tools. Hannibal and B.A. remember something they did in Cambodia once and they start working on a plan. Time for a second montage? PADDED EPISODE. They build some kind of deathmobile filled with dynamite.

Murdock makes faces
All part of Murdock’s well-thought-out plan

Everybody stays in place until the next morning, when Fletcher says come out now or he’ll flush you out. Hannibal says no, and B.A. gets in the deathmobile and rams their jeep and blows it up. Fletcher flees to his copter, but Murdock, who’s promised to avenge Bogey Bear, brings the chopper back to land and brings Fletcher into B.A.’s clutches. “That’s the ballgame, coach,” says Face. “We got the whole team.” Thumbs up from Hannibal!

Everything is wrapped up save for one thing: how to get home. B.A. is concerned, and Hannibal tries to distract him long enough for Triple A to give him a knockout shot. But B.A. ducks and Murdock catches the shot! B.A. laughs. “He tried to get me!” But Murdock has a shot too, and he injects in B.A.’s leg. Toby sums it up well: “You guys might be a little unique, but you’re great.” We’re done.

Still fun, but somewhat weird and very obviously PADDED, and I did not like the graphic demise of Bogey Bear one bit. And while we’re on that subject, how come the last A-Team friend who got killed got a big sendoff at the end of the episode, a long shot of his grave? How come Bogey didn’t get that? We’re going to give him such a sendoff right here:

Bogey Bear

Your heroism will not be forgotten, Bogey Bear! If you happened to marry the stuffed bear equivalent of Joanna Kerns, we’ll make sure to help her! Or something!

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 14 – A Nice Place To Visit | Next episode: Season 2, Episode 2 – Recipe For Heavy Bread