Clearly these soldiers don’t know about the dangers of dynamite-induced Jeep flipovers when they chase the team.

I caught the end of “The Three Amigos” on TV the other night and got stuck thinking on one of Martin Short’s lines; it was that scene where the villagers offer the amigos a place to stay, and Martin Short, summoning up as much chest-puffing gravitas as he can, says “we are men without homes… we were meant to wander.” It’s not something one of the A-Teamers would say, but it certainly applies. And it’s a little depressing, really. Sure, B.A. can hang out at the youth center, and Face can take a lady friend out on a date, but you can’t spend a lot of time with friends or loved ones when you know that at any moment you’ll have to run for it because Decker or Lynch is on your trail. I’ve noticed a lot of that in what I’m reading and watching lately: the most recent example is re-watching “The Warriors,” which is essentially a story of guys who want to come home and can’t; it’s Homer’s Odyssey with afros, flared pants and Lynne Thigpen.

For my money the saddest example of this is not the A-Team but David Banner on The Incredible Hulk. The A-Team has to run for it quite often, but quite often they do so having made a little money, or at least impressing the hell out of the locals. And they’re not the type to complain about their plight; Hannibal even says in the pilot that yeah, it’s annoying to be fugitives when you’ve done nothing wrong, but they’ll be cleared eventually, and until then they’ll help people out like always. David Banner, on the other hand, never catches a break. When he helps people he gets accused of being a criminal and a murderer; no one ever hands him any money; time and time again he gets close to finding a way to control his transformations into the Hulk and they slip just out of reach. And at the end of every episode, win or lose, he’s standing on the side of the road with absolutely nothing: no money, no friends, nothing except maybe a little hope he can get a ride to the next town and try again. David Banner may be not just the most depressing character in TV history, but the most depressing character in human history. Surely the poor people in Charles Dickens novels, the ones at the mercy of the rich bosses, look at David Banner and go “Jeez, at least I’m not that guy.”

Maybe this is just something that happens to TV and movie characters, but it sure seems like our world is just a whole lot of lonely people taking on dangerous missions for each other. Would it be easier if one of us just threw a party and we all got together? Maybe we could throw on an episode of The A-Team or two?

Sheriffs of Rivertown

Wild Guess Preview: Inspired by last week’s “fake A-Team” episode, some down-on-their-luck musicians head to Rivertown and impersonate the Canadian rock band Sheriff at the annual Rivertown Rib Fest and Homebuilding Expo. The actual band Sheriff has to hire the A-Team, first to chase away the impostors, and second to listen to endless anecdotes about the recording of “When I’m With You.” Bored to the breaking point, B.A. welds the whole band to the “Win a free thermal window evaluation” booth and justice is at last done.

The Recap: This one’s set in the “Republic of San Marcos”; we’re back in South America already? Rivertown is home to a large oil company, known as “Amco” (I suppose if they did this episode today the oil company might be called “B.”) Amco’s facility has some problems, mostly due to a foreman named Boyle, who orders two nice oil workers to work on a tunnel excavation even though they’re machinists and have nothing to do with tunnels. “We’re the company out here,” Boyle says, “and every now and then, we change the rules.” From the looks of the sweat stains, they don’t change their shirts.

While the nice oil workers go off to the tunnel, Boyle and his friends head to the local tavern, named Tavern to make it easy on the short-term memory, to play cards while Boyle’s girlfriend Nikki sings a lite-rock tune in the corner. In the distance, we hear an explosion, and more evil dudes come by and cheerfully explain there’s no hope for the men they set up inside the tunnel. That’s how we know they’re evil; that and their neckerchiefs.

Hannibal and the cleaning lady
Clara Dickerson loves it when water and Murphy’s Oil Soap come together.

In Los Angeles, Amco’s board is holding an important meeting. In the dark. With the cleaning woman. Seriously, the board chair invites her in, hands her a cigar and reiterates that he’s “sincere in our plea for help from the A-Team.” Ah, he thinks the cleaning lady is Hannibal. He then goes on about how the Rivertown electrical project has been set back by suspicious explosions that have killed 20 employees. He wants the A-Team to head up security at the project. “Sounds like you need ’em bad,” says the cleaning lady. “Why are you telling me all this?” “Wait, aren’t you Hannibal Smith?” Nope, she’s Clara Dickerson, waste management artisan. The real Hannibal Smith is posing as a security guard, and he reveals his identity to the board before lighting his own cigar and sharing a laugh with Clara.

A-Team burger picnic
An army travels on its stomach.

Hannibal drives off (in Face’s Corvette, which we haven’t seen in a while) to brief the team on their new mission, and wow, he bought burgers! Hannibal says that yes, the last Rivertown sheriff disappeared without a trace, but “a lot of people are going to benefit from this,” including the team, who not only get their full fee but can fly down on the Amco executive jet. B.A. is immediately suspicious: “I’ve seen this trick before. You give me a burger and expect me to eat it!” He takes Hannibal’s burger instead, but then he remembers Hannibal did the old burger-switcheroo trick once before, so he trades with Face. But he’s not sure about that, either, and considers switching with Murdock before finally taking back the first burger. B.A.’s channeling Vizzini from “The Princess Bride” here, isn’t he? Hannibal hands B.A. a milk carton to wash down his food, and that’s what has the sleeping powder in it. “He was doing so well,” Face says, shaking his head, before scarfing down his burger.

B.A. takes the deputy oath
Not exactly solemnly swearing, but swearing nonetheless

The team touches down in San Marcos and the first thing they do upon taking control of the sheriff’s office is lock the unconscious B.A. in the holding cell, just to be safe. “Fast Draw” Murdock is excited about getting to play lawman; he even quotes B.A. and says “I pity the poor man who crosses my path.” The actual B.A. is awake and screaming for a chance to (violently) cross paths with the rest of the team, but Hannibal and Face deflect his rage by swearing him in as an official Rivertown deputy, which requires B.A. to promise not to do harm to other peace officers. “This ain’t fair,” grumbles B.A.

Face, Murdock and B.A. shoot into the air
Every track meet should start this way.

“Time to clean up this town,” says Hannibal, and there’s no better place to start than Tavern, where the evil guys are cheating at cards and plotting more evil schemes. Hannibal busts in, shoots a hole in the ceiling and knocks over the card table. Boyle says “I run this town,” and pulls out a wad of cash to show how the sheriffs typically look the other way on his dirty dealings. “Wrong,” says Hannibal. “I run the town… and I never look the other way.” Boyle’s men try to rough up Hannibal, but the team bursts in and they take care of the bad dudes so quickly that there isn’t even time to start up any background music! Yes, I will go ahead and say it: there’s a new sheriff in town.

Face hits Nikki
Usually Face hits on women. This time was a little different.

And new deputies, too! One of them (you don’t need me to tell you it’s Murdock) is doing a Joe Friday monologue about himself and “Officer Baracus” while out on patrol; when he gets to the “I wear a badge” bit, B.A. chimes in with “You ought to wear a muzzle!” They spot one of Boyle’s men breaking into a building and going through a locker; he even tries to squash B.A. with a forklift when they give chase! The opened locker belonged to a Craig Monroe, though no one knows what they wanted in the locker. Hannibal has Face drop by the suspect’s house to look for clues. Face does this, though he’s not the only one: someone else has just entered through the window! Face hides in the closet, and when the perp gets close, he whacks him. Er, her. It’s Nikki, the blonde who was singing at Tavern earlier. Face is despondent. “I just clobbered a girl!?!”

They take Nikki back to the sheriff’s office and try to put the pieces together: Craig Monroe was killed in one of the suspicious explosions, and Nikki, as it turns out, is his sister, who’s in town spying on Boyle by pretending to be his girlfriend. She’s discovered that Boyle leaves Tavern for parts unknown precisely at 10 pm several times a week, and he doesn’t return until morning. “Whatever Boyle is up to,” Face says, “it has to be more than just ripping off lockers and cheating at cards.” It’s got to be that Boyle is playing World of Warcraft, though no one says this.

Ok, here’s a slight twist: Boyle has a whole colony of people working in these tunnels. He’s also got a San Marcos-ian guy called Captain Cordoba, and he’s unhappy with the progress of whatever these people are doing: “I’m supposed to attack the presidential palace in two days,” he says. He wants more men, but Boyle says his hands are full with the new sheriffs, and besides, he brought over Monroe. Oh, so the men who are killed and their bodies never found aren’t actually dead, they’re being forced to work on some paramilitary project. Craig is not a well man, so Boyle broke into his locker and brought his medication down to the tunnel.

And that’s just what the sister realized: the medication is missing from Craig’s locker. “Why would they want to take his medication?” B.A. asks, and Hannibal puts two and two together: “to give it to him?” But just then, another tunnel explosion, and it looks like another six dudes are missing. Boyle says it was hid idea… “guess I messed up.” Looks like Cordoba got his extra men after all… now he just needs some fine Corinthian leather from Ricardo Montalban.

Face shakes Boyle down
The suspect’s lighter was impounded and sent to trial, county of Los Angeles. In a moment, the results of that trial.

The team needs to find out what Boyle’s up to, so they have B.A. make a homing bug to track the guy, which Murdock suggests could be planted on Boyle’s clothes. I mention this because of a funny aside: Face says Murdock’s idea won’t work since people change clothes every day, but Murdock says “I do, but it didn’t smell like he did.” Nice. Nikki says Boyle always carries a silver cigarette lighter, so they’re going to put the bug in there. Face and Murdock stage a little shakedown at Tavern, upending Boyle’s card table and planting the device while Face searches everybody and Murdock channels “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

Boyle is released on his own smelly recognizance with the team in pursuit. They follow the guy to a cave, where they find not only the missing men but an underground military factory, complete with an anti-tank missile. But Boyle and Captain Cordoba find them, and they blab about their heretofore secret plan to take the presidential palace. But what, wonders Face, does Boyle get out of the arrangement? Well, Cordoba will run San Marcos after the coup, and “I’m sure he’ll find something interesting for me to do.” Huh? Boyle and Cordoba dynamite the opening to the cave as they leave, trapping the team, Nikki and the workers inside.

“We’re gonna need a bulldozer to get out of here,” says a worried Face. Can’t they just build one during a montage? Oh, I was just kidding, but they are doing a montage. The lights are still on, and they’ve got all sorts of machine shop equipment, so they make a giant rotating saw and use it to cut through the rock and escape. The team piles back into their Jeep and they drive away.

Cordoba and Boyle are getting their soldiers and missile (remember, they only have one) in position. “President Ortega is in for a big surprise!” laughs Cordoba. But he gets a surprise in the form of some dynamite, thrown by Murdock. The team then leads Cordoba’s soldiers on a big off-road Jeep chase – clearly these soldiers don’t know much about the dangers of dynamite-induced Jeep flipovers when they give chase, but they have a good handle on it by the end. We also get a firefight between the team and Cordoba’s crew; the tide turns when Craig Monroe and the other workers show up, using guns the Cordoba guys left behind in the tunnel. Cordoba flees in his Jeep but Hannibal makes a mighty leap and knocks his block off. Everybody else surrenders, and Face blows up their precious missile for good measure. I’ll bet President Ortega never even knew about the coup, and instead spent the whole afternoon making the flour tortillas for which he’s known the world over.

B.A. locks up the rest of the team
B.A. locks up the others. But don’t worry, Morgan Freeman’s in there and he’ll help them get acclimated.

Time to head back to the States; “I’m gonna miss this job,” says Face. And the Monroes are going to miss the team. Nikki tells Face to look her up if he’s ever in her town in Oklahoma, just so long as he doesn’t hit her again. Face says ok, fine, and then gives her a kiss. Hannibal reminds the Monroes they have a plane to catch, and they head out. “Speaking of planes, Hannibal,” says B.A., and he starts moving toward the others, who lock themselves in the jail for protection. Face reminds B.A. of his oath not to hurt other officers, but B.A. points out that there are three badges on the desk… “and I’ve still got my badge.” Uh oh. He gives the guys two days in jail. And then B.A. says he loves it when a plan comes together. Wow!

Quite good! Not quite top-drawer like most of “Showdown,” but certainly far above average. Lots of fun moments, from the cleaning lady to the jail stuff. Sure, they’re meant to wander, but they do have some fun while wandering.

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