“Hannibal is a religious scholar, and his religion is the jazz.”

I had two big items on my to-do list this weekend: one was the recap that’s now in front of you. The other was a fairly large scale project in our garden, buying a carload full of lumber and making it into a series of raised planting beds to house the literally hundreds of new plants we’ve got growing in our not-quite-a-greenhouse plant room. Seriously, every square inch of this room has a plant in it. My year may be with The A-Team, but my summer will be with the watering can.

This presents a bit of a problem. Both projects are top priority, both are labors of love; both are likely to yield a great bounty when complete. But both require attention, and there’s only really time for one. What to do? In this case, the thing to do was to let Mother Nature make the decision, and she did, letting loose with a rainstorm worthy of… uh, something more profound than what I came up with, which was the jungle scene in “Romancing the Stone,” where Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner hide out in an old, crashed drug-running plane, and they get all high and happy until Douglas learns the Doobie Brothers had broken up. The rain was pretty intense, is what I’m saying. And so here we are. But the gardening is coming, and if I can swing it, I’m going to put a preparation montage together while we build those wooden planting beds. Cause I love it when a plant comes together.

Deadly Maneuvers

Wild Guess Preview: A short-on-cash Face puts his gift of gab to use on the lucrative motivational speaking circuit. He’s encouraging people all over the country to think smart, think positive and live the dream, including one of Decker’s trusted lieutenants, who is so motivated to find his charges that he dives from the balcony and tackles Face on the spot. The problem? The rest of the team is suffering from apathy, and don’t feel like rescuing anybody.

Hippie Hannibal and Eric

Hannibal IS Dr. Johnny Fever. Again.

The Recap: “We have wandered, and we have searched. And now, we bring our children home.” I think I turned the religious channel on by mistake here, folks, hang on, I’ll just change the channel, and… no, these are actually the people on “The A-Team,” a nonviolent congregation led by a wrinkly guy named Carl. But an equally wrinkly guy called Sykes shows up with some men and says “We don’t want your little tribe dirtying up our country air.” Then he burns down the congregation’s new meeting house. Uh, who was dirtying the country air again?

One of the rare non-wrinkly characters in this episode, Eric, is a devotee of wrinkly Carl and his group, the Society of Men, but realizes living by example and not burning things down is probably not enough to get Sykes out of their lives, so he meets up with Hannibal, who’s disguised as a hippie bike salesman. Their meeting plays out like you’d expect, though we get to hear Hannibal say the excellent line “I relate more to Father Neptune.” Face wonders why a nonviolent group like the Society wants help from the A-Team; after all, he says, “we’re not caterers.” He wants the team to build their new meeting house, but Hannibal adds “we’re not carpenters,” and Murdock adds “we’re going to have to be pretty rough on that lumber… you’re talking about carnage here.” But Eric says the team’s reputation is so solid even Sykes won’t want to mess with them. Eric’s just hired himself the A-Team.

Everybody piles into the awesome van, where Murdock passes the time by trying to play 21 Questions with B.A. He’s not interested: “only question I have, fool, is why I don’t crumple you up alive!” Hannibal reminds the team to be “as nonviolent as possible,” knowing that’ll be easier said than done. They meet up with the Society folk – Face says “it looks like we just stepped into ‘The Grapes of Wrath'” – but they all seem happy enough that the team is around. Murdock walks through the camp and nuts rain down on him. “I hear you, brothers,” he says. Wrinkly Carl is unhappy that there are guns in the awesome van, but Hannibal says they’ll build the meeting house without any violence.

But first, they need lumber. The Society bought and paid for some wood, but it didn’t arrive, because the storekeeper is in cahoots with Sykes. Hannibal says he’ll “make him an offer he can’t refuse… peaceably.” B.A. fixes up a Society truck to take into town; it’s here that he befriends Ole, the local underprivileged kid (I wonder if this religion allows ashtrays?). Then he, Face and Murdock drive to town to get lumber. Murdock now has nuts in his eyes, and declares that as for Sykes and his minions, “we shall dance them into submission.” I have no idea what Murdock’s doing here, but I like it.

Murdock wears a View Master

The flare gun I get. But what’s with the View Master?

The nearby town is called Kellysburg. It has two shops and ten people, a towering metropolis compared to most of the towns on this program. They drive to Sinclair’s lumber yard, and Face plays like he’s with the Bureau of Weights and Measures, accusing Sinclair of all sorts of malfeasance (he even namedrops Ralph Nader!). He and Murdock grab a few boxes of nails while B.A. loads the truck with lumber. Meanwhile, Ole’s followed the team into town, and he’s getting picked on by some larger, meaner, dumber kids – the word you’re looking for here is spelled m-i-c-r-o-c-o-s-m – but B.A. makes the bullies scatter and Ole gets a hug. Now Sinclair (and, by extension, Sykes) knows these outsiders are working with “those peacenik freaks,” and they spring into action, setting up a little blockade as the team drives back to the camp. The team has planned ahead, though; Face hands Murdock some kind of flare gun (during this scene Murdock refers to Face as “Visage Man,” which I love) and he shoots some smoke at Sykes, which gives them a clear path back to camp.

Murdock categorizes nuts

I am too emotionally stunted to go for the “Murdock plays with his nuts” joke, so feel free to join in.

They return with the lumber and everyone’s ready to build the meeting house, but first Carl has to groan about the smoke bomb Murdock used. Hannibal talks him off the ledge, and the preparation montage begins, but some of the younger members are already talking about a splinter group called Society of Non-Wrinkly Men Who Don’t Hate Everything. B.A. is leading a very efficient operation here, except that Face can’t seem to hit a nail straight (“I procure them, I don’t pound them,” he explains to B.A.) and Murdock is working on a special project, categorizing nuts. He has several categories: “nuts in line,” “sad,” “happy” and “dead” (!). B.A. gives him a scolding and steps on the nut marked “dead,” which makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess.

Sykes, of course, is mad about the new meeting house, and races over to confront the team; he’s even accompanied by a goon who’s wearing Marty McFly’s orange vest from “Back to the Future”! Since Hannibal’s promise to stay peaceful has eschewed the usual first round of fighting, the team plays a few mind games to warn Sykes off, one of which is B.A. breaking a two-by-four over his head. Carl whines that says Sykes’s people will soon be back, and in greater numbers, but Hannibal isn’t worried: “Cowards love to talk about what they’ll never do.” Hannibal is a religious scholar too, and his religion is the jazz.

Ole saves Murdock and B.A.


Hannibal and Face head over to the local church the next morning to escort the Society folk. This doesn’t go particularly well, though, as Sykes’s thugs knock out Face and kidnap Ole. Murdock and B.A. stayed at camp to make breakfast, so they’re on hand when the thugs arrive, but the Sykes people, using Ole as a pawn, knock them out and dump them inside the new meeting house, which they promptly torch. Ole, proving he’s more of a man than the whiny guy, rouses B.A. and they all escape just in time. Ole’s not well, though, so the team takes him over to the local hospital in the van. And the Sykes dudes block them from going in, which is in the running for evilest thing an A-Team villain has done. This is B.A.’s breaking point, and he and the team pound the crap out of the Sykes thugs. The doctor admits Ole, but not before telling Sykes to “get off my property” (he owns the whole hospital?).

B.A. holds up the unconscious Ole

B.A.’s Pieta: think of the ashtrays Ole will never get to make!

The good news is Ole’s fine. The bad news is, Carl is back, and his first words after Ole’s near-roasting is “your means are not the means we can live with.” Hannibal’s like whatever, and the team drives off. The Sykes boys are pleased: the hardware store guy says “looks like we won’t get a rematch,” to which Sykes says “then we’ll do the next best thing,” which almost certainly means watching tapes of Australian rules football.

The team is dispirited as they drive off: Face finally breaks the silence and says while they did get booted from the mission for getting violent, they can’t “let the local talent go around in this town saying they whipped the A-Team.” Hannibal likes this, so they head back into town to teach Sykes and friends “a little A-Team religion.” That’s more like it! They set up at the Society compound, and when Sykes’s men show up to harass the congregation again, we finally get our big gunfight-that-turns-into-a-fistfight. Best moment: Hannibal finally confronts Sykes, and spots him the first punch (“not bad!”) before pummeling him.

And everything’s wrapped up, albeit not as originally planned. Sykes and company are on their way to the state police, and the Society is free to live in peace, to build their meeting house without Sykes’s threats or the team’s heavy reliance on grenade launchers. Which means it’s a perfect time for Carl, aka the Society of Wet Blankets, to continue complaining. Hannibal lauds Carl and his wrinkles because “you don’t change your tune when you win… most people do.” But, Hannibal says, “did you ever wonder where people like you would be without people like us?” The team drives off and wraps up the episode with Hannibal expounding to Murdock along the lines of “actually, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once, not in ‘Nam of course,” Face craving fast food and B.A. eating the pecans he took from Murdock – in other words, a perfect ending.

Three solid episodes in a row means we’re on a roll again! Making the A-Team fight without fighting was a clever twist, and Sykes was definitely one sick dude, though not really a tough one as soon as the guns came out. The only catch here: why did Sykes care so darned much that a bunch of pacifists were moving into town? Would he rather Suge Knight or John Gotti move into town? Nonetheless, if anyone wants to start a Society of the Jazz and build a camp community somewhere, I’ll volunteer to scam the lumber from the crooked hardware store guy.

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