Swap out the cigar for a carrot and Hannibal’s basically Bugs Bunny.

Another telling moment from the land of the not badass: I had to call my car service to fix a flat tire. It’s not that I’m in capable of fixing a flat tire; I’ve done it several times before. But between the immobilizer boot and the fact that the car’s trunk decided to collect a lot of the rainwater we’ve been getting lately in the very spot where the spare tire and changing tools were being stored, it was quickly becoming a bigger problem than I was ready to handle at the time. Now I know that the A-Team is able to change their own tires without complaining, and they could probably even scam the new tires if the situation called for it. But I’m not a soldier of fortune (yet); I’m just a dude looking to get to the gym before the good reruns start on Sunday night. Not badass, perhaps, but I should get a few points for keen self-knowledge.

When You Comin’ Back, Range Rider?

Wild Guess Preview: Winona Ryder, only 12 years old and not yet the star of “Heathers,” hires the A-Team to find her mysterious brother Range, and promises them 10 percent of her future movie earnings if they succeed. What the team doesn’t realize is that Range isn’t a person, he’s actually a range, like a kitchen appliance, and they have to drive to almost every Sears outlet in the country to find him. And just as they make contact, the regional manager for Home Appliances decides to jack up the prices… and the violence.

Daniel Running Bear gets captured.
Hey, I think I lassoed you. So what am I so afraid of?

The Recap: Interesting facts: there was a View-Master set of this two-hour special made, as well as a novelization! And I think it’s being directed by John Ford, what with the long panning shot of wild horses all along the… world, really; there’s like thousands and thousands of them, in some kind of a Burning Man for Horses thing. There’s also some outsized guys in Jeeps, shooting guns and trying to rustle the horses into some pens. (One of them says into a walkie-talkie “head ’em up over there” but doesn’t even attempt to say “move ’em out!”) But then some David Cassidy-ish Native American guy rides up on a horse, and he shoots out the Jeep guys’ windshields and the horses go back to where they were. This guy doesn’t need the A-Team; did I accidentally tune in to watch The Native American David Cassidy Guy Adventure Hour? Oh wait, the Jeep guys round him up with a lasso, so maybe he does need the A-Team. They radio into a guy named Carter (not the former president), who tells them to “send him back to his reservation in a basket.” They drive off to go get the basket, and drag the David Cassidy guy behind them.

Colonel Decker introduced.
Colonel Decker, welcome to your new career of failing at catching the A-Team.

Having settled the Western question, we move to an army base somewhere, and a general is telling new character Colonel Decker that Colonel Lynch is “out” as the Army’s head A-Team catcher. Clip time! Now rolling old footage from some of the team’s best escapes from Lynch’s clutches. The general wants Decker, the “best troubleshooter of the last two wars,” to find the A-Team and bring ’em in. Decker says ok, then proceeds to fire every round of ammunition in military stockpiles just because he can. Damn.

Hannibal in an old guy disguise and B.A.
Why is B.A. hanging out with Senator Palpatine?

Now we finally see the A-Team, or at least Hannibal, who’s selling hot dogs to the Native American guy. (Actually, Hannibal jokes, he only has “lukewarm dogs.” Ha!) Hannibal gives him instructions on where to meet the whole team; then he sneaks over to B.A., who’s hiding behind a tree very Looney Tunes-style, to spring Murdock from the mental hospital. Normally Face has to do this, but he’s hosting some kind of Hollywood soiree to raise money for his new movie “Wine for Breakfast.” Decker’s outside (he can teleport?) and says he has “men inside.” Hannibal is there too (he can teleport?) posing as a butler to lure Face away. They run for it just as Decker storms the building, yelling to his men “the one who catches them keeps his rank!” Geez, he’s no better than Yaphet “the one who catches them lives” Kotto.

The very Knight Rider-ish getaway car
Michael, we can meet up with Devon in about 50 mil- wait, I’m on the wrong show!

Hannibal scams the valet parking guy and steals… hey, that’s KITT, the talking car from Knight Rider! They do a chase scene and escape by driving up the ramp of a car carrier, hiding in plain sight. Face is impressed with Decker: “He sure isn’t Lynch.” Actually Decker’s exactly like Lynch, except that he didn’t throw a prissy tantrum when his plan failed.

Murdock in his Range Rider mask
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Murdocks

Now it’s nighttime, and there’s one crazy fool yet to be accounted for. Face and B.A. drop by the mental hospital and pick up Murdock, only he’s not Murdock, he’s “Range Rider,” a masked cowboy mime; his trusty horse, Thunder, will be played by the invisible dog Billy. Decker’s men are, of course, at the hospital too, but they’re fooled by Face’s crafty simulation of Murdock in bed covered by blankets (Ferris Bueller must’ve watched this episode before his day off). The team sneaks away in the awesome van, only one of the Decker guys attached a “homer” to it, and they follow as the team meets up with Hannibal and their David Cassidy-ish client, Daniel Running Bear, at a dockside warehouse. Must’ve been a long drive as it’s now daytime again!

The awesome van drives into the water
The van, just before landing on the hapless Gorton’s fisherman

The team having been assembled, Daniel explains how the wild horses are kind of important to his people and that the federal agency responsible for them is understaffed and overworked and please won’t you just help already. The team acts all skeptical and then they say yes like they always do. “Shall we saddle up?” asks Face? Not yet, because Decker’s surrounded the place! Face explains that Decker had a reputation in Vietnam for being effective and kind of a jerk; Hannibal even got into a fight with him once over blowing up hospitals (Hannibal was against it). Decker says that if they don’t come out in the next two minutes he’ll blow up the building. Hannibal’s escape plan is pretty clever: they drive the awesome van through the warehouse door and straight into the ocean, only it’s a ruse – everybody except Hannibal drives away in a convertible while the MPs inspect the sinking van with Hannibal, who’s dressed as Randall McMurphy from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” So Hannibal was able to rig the van to drive into the ocean, steal a convertible and put on a disguise in about 45 seconds? Swap out the cigar for a carrot and Hannibal’s basically Bugs Bunny.

And it’s off to Arizona, where a road sign admonishes the team to “protect our scenic integrity,” and that’s cool because that’s essentially the crux of this mission. B.A. complains that Hannibal didn’t bring back his beloved van, though Hannibal is sure that “it’ll turn up soon enough.” In fact, Decker is dredging the van up at that very moment (his crane operator appears to be “Saturday Night Live” writer Michael O’Donoghue). There are no A-Teamers inside, of course, but Decker does find Daniel Running Bear’s prints inside the warehouse, so now he’s off to Arizona too.

B.A. and Shelley
Shelley, the first network TV character introduced solely for the purpose of mentioning that B.A. has a youth center

The team saddles up and rides some horses into the…. well, not woods, so “scenic integrity,” then, all to the tune of some dude singing “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.” We learn from Daniel that his people are afraid of Carter the horse rustler, and we meet Daniel’s small and mostly superfluous nephew, Shelley. Carter’s thugs pull up just as the team wraps up their shopping at the antique clothing store (seriously, that’s what it’s called), and they say mean things to Daniel. The team walks over and calls the thugs girls, which prompts an awesome fistfight – I love it when 70s-looking guys hit B.A. and he doesn’t so much as flinch! Hannibal tells the lead thug to tell Carter he’s out of the rustling business, and Face tips his hat to Carter’s niece. Daniel notes things are likely to get “interesting,” which Triple A says is usually how it plays out.

Carter, by the way, is not happy about Hannibal’s warning. He’s also not happy that his niece is taking the mustangs’ side against his ranchers. He wants the thugs to figure out some way of cleaning this mess up and dealing with Daniel’s new friends, other than killing his niece. They also want at least one train car full of horses sent to – I think they said MacGyver? Why would Richard Dean Anderson hate animals? B.A. and Murdock are on hand to meet the aforementioned train, at least when B.A. isn’t choking Murdock for talking to his horse! Triple A is there, too, to rub grease on the tracks – only, as Face points out, “it’s not grease.” Ewwwwww. Her foul concoction scuttles the train’s momentum long enough for Hannibal and Face to hop on board and wrest control of the thing from the 810 year old conductor. Then they open up the train car and wild horses spill out onto the plains.

“Whoever heard of bandits on horseback in the 1980’s?” Carter grumbles when he hears about the goings on. He wants his chubby thug to round up the horses immediately and stop the team. Carter’s niece overhears this nefarious conversation and begins pouting. Carter heads to his office, but Hannibal and Face are already there, to “file a grievance with the Wild Horses of America, Western Division.” Face: “Not to be confused with the Horses’ Butts of America, of which we hear you’re a longstanding member.” They make Carter hand over the papers outlining his rustling operations, but he also gets a gun, so they get into an indoor shootout. Carter’s niece decides to walk into the middle of the gunfight, so Hannibal takes her hostage so they can make their escape. The thugs follow. Carter looks a bit like Bob Uecker.

They ride off and meet up with Murdock, who is doing surveillance dressed as a bush. Also, Triple A is getting bow and arrow lessons from Daniel (no, that’s not a euphemism). They offer to let Carter’s niece go, but she offers to help stop the next round of rustling. So they decide to hijack the train again, even though they Carter’s men will be ready for them this time, and that Decker’s on his way too.

On his way? Actually he’s right there (I want to see how many times I can cram “can he teleport?” into this write-up). Face saves himself by ducking into the antique clothing store to hide. Decker follows him into the changing rooms, where there’s a naked woman. Why is there a naked woman? Oh, she’s hiding Face because she likes him. Decker is mad and says he wants the ten best men available to finish them off. “This’ll be the A-Team’s Waterloo,” he says. Why only ten men?

A woman in a dressing room, while Decker searches for Face
I don’t actually remember why I wrote on this picture. Drop me a line if you remember the purpose.

Because of the Decker run-in, Face was not able to scam an all-terrain vehicle like Hannibal asked; instead, he got one of those little train push carts that Shaggy and Scooby always seem to end up on. B.A. is all “oh, Hannibal” about it but they start a montage anyway; B.A. welds, Triple A and Daniel add dynamite to arrows and everybody scrounges metal for armor plating. The train arrives, carrying all of Carter’s thugs, and the team re-routes it. I can only hope they painted a brick wall to look like a thru road, so the thugs can crash into it. Hannibal starts shooting from the top of their little death-mobile train cart, while Triple A, encouraged by Daniel, lobs flaming arrows at the train cars. Her aim is now so good that even when the explosive arrows land on the train car, they injure only bad guys, and no horses! The thugs surrender, and they open the train car with the horses… only there aren’t any horses, only an ADR of a horse. Then the Carters’ jeeps show up and they try to block the deathmobile with a jeep but the jeep EXPLODES but the team is surrounded and they have to surrender. Hannibal says “I love it when a plan comes together,” which is ironic because the plan didn’t come together. They take Hannibal in a jeep and Face and B.A. somewhere else. Murdock tells Triple A and Daniel he’s gonna stick with Hannibal and rides off to the strains of the Lone Ranger song. Triple A and Daniel go to get help elsewhere.

Hannibal is taken to Carter, who laughs at him. Hannibal laughs back. Carter asks Striker when the train tracks will be repaired, and Striker says he told the men to “keep on humpin'”!?! Carter says to “fertilize the south forty” with Hannibal. Hannibal says “have a nice day!” Am I not supposed to know what’s happening here? Murdock convinces Carter’s niece to scream and cause a distraction, which gives Murdock enough time to beat up the guard and untie Hannibal. Murdock hands the niece his horse and says “Take care of Wacko for me.” Hannibal: “That’s WACO, Murdock!”

Face and B.A. tied up on a train car
If Hannibal can’t save them, maybe Dudley Do Right can!

Daniel and Triple A head back toward the reservation to look for help, but they’re blocked by two of Decker’s cars. Meanwhile, B.A. and Face are tied up in a railroad car, and Carter says “there ain’t no return tickets.” Striker gets on board the train to finish them off when they cross the border. But wait! There’s Range Rider, I mean Murdock, and Hannibal. They beat up Carter and his helicopter pilot, who’s wearing a Cubs hat, and they take off in pursuit of the train! Hannibal jumps onto the train and knocks out Striker with three punches – half punches, really – and separates the car carrying Face and B.A. from the engine car. At that very moment, Face taunts B.A. into breaking free of the ropes, and then he steers the car to a stop. Murdock shows up with his chopper, and Hannibal knocks the flying-phobic B.A. out by clobbering him with a board! They pile into the chopper just as Daniel and Triple A lead Decker to their location. Hannibal won’t take off until Decker sees the expression on his face! Triple A and Daniel tell Decker that horse rustling is a federal offense, and he agrees. If only he was a cop! “Next time, Hannibal Smith… next time.” Dr. Claw stole that line for Inspector Gadget!

Horses roam free once again. Hannibal says the team has to vanish, but Triple A says she still has some lovin’ to finish with Daniel, so she’s staying. Shelley gives B.A. a bow and arrow, to which he says: “Thanks little brother… I’m sure the kids at my day care center will love the gift.” He then promises to send Shelley a thousand ashtrays. Murdock ends his Range Rider fantasy by handing his fancy guns over to Daniel, asking only that if the bush, now named Ed, ever needs him, to call. The team drives off into the sunset.

Hannibal smiles
I love it when a two-hour special comes together.

Absolutely letter-freaking-perfect. WHY WAS THIS NOT A MOVIE. Seriously, why was this not a movie? Every archetype of the A-Team universe is here, from Hannibal’s plans, the team dreaming of Hollywood, the van, the copters, montages, B.A. getting drugged, a military chase, Murdockian hijinks, Face mackin’…. all done just as you would want it to be done. It is textbook. It is brilliant. It is badass. It makes this project worth all the effort. Let’s watch it again!

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