The classism on this show is getting out of hand; hillbillies do not actually control everything.

As I watch more A-Team, I find myself watching reruns of other shows. “Dragnet” is back in my rotation, as is “Knight Rider.” My brother is a big “Kojak” fan, so that’s in. I’ve even caught “Marcus Welby, M.D.” once or twice – probably once, as the second time I “watched” it, I thought I saw Marcus remove a kidney from some guy and then give it to Myra Sherwood to sell to Chinese organ thieves. Throw in a few made-for-TV movies starring Hal Linden or Lee Majors and I’ve got a pretty good thing going.

But there’s one small catch. I come to reruns primarily because of a pathological aversion to new things, so episodes that we can charitably describe as “familiar” are OK by me. But some of the shows are a little more similar than I remember, and I don’t just mean that I finally realized that “Adam-12” was produced by “Dragnet” star Jack Webb. I mean, I just watched an episode of “The Incredible Hulk” where David Banner helps Jack Kruschen and other neighborhood businessmen in New York City fend off a protection racket. It was good stuff, except that, not so long ago, I watched The A-Team help Jack Kruschen and other neighborhood businessmen in New York City fend off a protection racket! These were both Stephen J. Cannell shows; you’ll remember him from his end-of-show tag where he’s smoking a pipe and working on a script on his typewriter and then he tosses the script in the air and it turns into the C in the Cannell logo. I think when he throws that script in the air, he’s just finished crossing out the word “Hulk” from a page of that Hulk script and replacing it with “Hannibal Smith.”

Or maybe that was Kruschen’s stock in trade, playing the genial, easily frightened victim of protection rackets in NYC. He did guest on an episode of “She’s the Sheriff”…

There’s Always a Catch

Wild Guess Preview: In a very elaborate miscommunication, the A-Team is hired by the perennially cellar-dwelling Seattle Mariners – “we heard you were experts on defense!” Confused but always eager to give it their all, Hannibal (impersonating Don Zimmer, of all people) works out some drills. Morale improves but on-field performance does not, and manager Rene Lachemann is fired. Lachemann, in turn, hires the A-Team to get revenge on the team’s executives, which they achieve by staging a “Strippers Who Look Like Whitey Ford Day” at the Kingdome.

Hillbillies run extortion rings
“Crusher” Jerry Blackwell runs the local extortion racket.

The Recap: We’re at a dockyard somewhere, with a really pinched looking guy, a sort of early 80s heartthrob type and a voluptuous blond daughter. And they’re all fishing people? And some hillbilly named Garber is coming up to mess with them? The classism on this show is getting out of hand; hillbillies do not actually control everything. But they do apparently control this town and all the fishing done therein, and when they unsuccessfully shake the family down for 50 percent of their profits, they beat down the pinched guy and wreck his boat. The men are taken to
“Lobster Bay General Hospital.”

Turns out the A-Team is at said hospital, as B.A. stepped on a rusty nail during a recent near-miss escape from Decker and the A-Team does not mess around when it comes to tetanus. But he’s fine, so he’s released before we can figure out how they came up with his awesome hospital alias, “Lother Quint.” Murdock asks if B.A.’s got lockjaw. “At least I don’t have lock-brain!” he replies. “And don’t forget, I still got two feet, so kicking you ain’t gonna be a problem!” The blond lady and her goofy brother are there checking on their pinched dad, and Hannibal listens to their story about how Garber isn’t just extorting money from all the fishing boats, he’s also planning to wipe out the entire lobster crop by overfishing it.

A-Team joins the medical profession
It’s not even the right decade, and still Eriq LaSalle is there asking about his character’s son Reese

The team wants to help, but Decker’s hot on their tail already. I’ll give Decker this, he keeps the pressure on, unlike Colonel Lynch, who vanished for six to eight episodes in between chases. The team sees the MP car sirens and race back into the hospital, with Hannibal yelling “We’re about to enter the medical profession!” Decker and his men storm the hospital – can they really do that? Military dudes can just walk into a hospital and arrest people? They don’t arrest anybody this time, as they unmask the wrong doctor in the OR and have to search elsewhere; meanwhile everybody dresses up in hospital greens and they wheel B.A. toward the van. Just when you thought there would be a chase scene, Hannibal shoots out the tires of the military cars. B.A. says “Hannibal’s on some serious jazz.”

So we head to the docks, where Murdock does “animal vibe therapy” with a lobster he named Thermidor and B.A. gets angry about it. Face wonders why no one else tried to stand up and the young dude says everyone else already “got hurt and gave up,” so there goes the union strategy from last episode. Hannibal has his own plan, and it begins by repairing the boat engine. Not a chance, says the son; the boat supply guy is in Garber’s back pocket. “Pockets,” Hannibal notes, “are made to be reached into.” I think that was a proverb until sexual harassment prevention became a workplace priority.

Murdock has a claw hand
Lobster vibes.

They go to the boat supply place; the owner, Hagopian, is sort of a Larry David balding type with a dog that’s supposed to be ferocious but appears to yawn when he first “attacks.” He knows the only boat that needs repairs belongs to that family so he doesn’t want to help. Murdock points a gun at him and he mumbles something like “I’ll see what we have” before wandering away. Hannibal expects that he’s actually going to call Garber, which he does; Murdock tells the dog “you need to learn to use your anger more constructively”! Garber and his flunkies show up and Face cheerfully gives them a bill – $300,000, though “that’s a tentative figure.” Garber laughs and says no, punching Hannibal. Fist fight! Things go well for Team Garber at first – they launch Face into some boxes and a dude punches through Murdock’s lobster – but then Murdock flips out and starts wailing on the guy, and they turn the tables and all the thugs get knocked through various wooden things. “You’ve been warned, Garber,” says Hannibal. They drive away, though Hannibal notes that “Garber’s not half done” most likely.

Ok, Decker shows up at the Mayers’ house and the daughter answers the door dressed in a Daisy Duke outfit. She fibs and says they “barely spoke” to the A-Team and she surely doesn’t know where they are, but Decker says “Regulations require that we check the premises” – HAS ANYONE EVER READ THE BILL OF RIGHTS – oh, Decker says he can get a warrant really quicklike. The team is hiding nearby, and when Decker leaves they make plans for stopping the Garber machine while also fleeing from the military police. Hannibal suggests to Face “renew your acquaintance with The Magnificent Templeton.” What?

Face is the Magnificent Templeton
The Magnificent Templeton’s only trick is borrowing scuba gear, but I’d still rather watch him instead of Criss Angel.

Oh, this suave Face must be him. He turns on the charm for the lady who runs the local scuba gear shop, telling her how he’s a magician who was “on the American TV show ‘Merv Griffin’.” He needs air tanks for his “Tank of Doom” trick, and talks Betty into giving some of them up, but just as he walks out of her store, there’s Decker. “Oh, come ON,” he says, and hides out in the back of a lobster roll truck until things blow over. He makes it back to the Mayer house, where Hannibal explains he wants Face and Murdock to “explore the murky depths.”

B.A. may be injured, but not so injured he can’t be part of a construction montage! Hannibal works on some kind of remote device with B.A., and OH MY GOD FACE IS WATERBOARDING MURDOCK LOOK LOOK!

Face waterboards Murdock

I don’t see any armor plating, but I do see some plastic explosive… and sure enough, they’re out on the water, with Face and Murdock scubaing out to set up some remote devices. Murdock uses Therm’s claw to detonate them and scare Garber away from his traps. They also find a message in a bottle: “Lobster are red, water is blue, put up your hands and look behind you” – nice poem! The team rushes the boat and holds everybody at gunpoint. Hannibal says they also took photos of the oversized lobster traps and says they have a reporter friend who’d love to write about Garber’s scheme. Garber says “you’ll never get away with this,” and Hannibal says everyone who’s ever said those words to him “ends up eating them on sourdough.” Mmm, sourdough. “Not this time, Smith!” says Decker, who somehow smuggled a whole platoon of men onto the boat without anyone hearing. Huh? The team is taken into custody, though all hope is not lost; Murdock is still scuba-ing around and no one seems to know he’s there. Decker leads Hannibal, Face and B.A. to a holding shed that’s baby blue. Why is blue the color of evil on this show? Garber thinks this is funny, but Decker doesn’t like Garber either, and says he would’ve ratted on him too if he didn’t need to get the A-Team first. Hannibal likes that there’s dissension in their ranks. Decker tells Garber to leave town or else he’ll make him very unhappy.

Murdock steals an Army uniform and drives away
Murdock is one rendition of “Galveston” away from Gomer Pyle here, folks

Face is worried that their last hope is Murdock, but as Hannibal puts it, “Murdock will pop up somewhere.” POP! He and Triple A hijack the military truck that’s coming down for the team and when they show up, the rest of the team grabs the MPs’ guns, rounds them up and puts them in the light blue shed. Hannibal taunts Decker: “Go back to your home town, open up an army/navy store… you’re a born clerk.” They go back to the Mayers’ boat.

Which is wise, because Garber told one of his thugs he’s not leaving town until he can get some payback on the Mayers, and payback time is now. They start wrecking the boat, except that the team is there to start a big gunfight. Hannibal runs out of ammo, so he tells Face to cover him. Then everyone stops shooting. Again, when one guy runs out of ammo, everyone else stops shooting too!?! B.A. takes this opportunity to drop a net on some bad guys and the rest of the goons get thrown into the water. They tie everybody up and Hannibal gives Garber two choices: leave voluntarily or start a colony on the barren world of Ceti Alpha 5 – no, wait, that was Star Trek. Garber says this stinks, so Hannibal lets Mayers give him to Decker. The Mayers thank the team long enough for B.A. to get ticked off at Murdock for his lobster vibes: “You don’t hear no vibes! You don’t hear nothing but your pea brain, rattling around in your head!” He throws Murdock into the water. “Vibe on that, sucka!” Which Murdock actually does!

Another above-average episode – finally we see Decker living up to, or closer to, his reputation as tougher than Lynch. And they mixed up the story and the military chase nicely, especially with Decker’s deal with the chubby unshaven devil. Impressive. Can’t wait to see it re-done on “Empty Nest” someday!

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