So this is the new A-Team mission, coaching Catholic school football?
Ok, I finally got around to answering my question about whether or not the military would have time to chase the A-Team around. And the answer is… probably. There’s a whole Criminal Investigation Command within the Army, and they have more than a few special agents to handle these kinds of cases. I couldn’t tell for sure how many; some sources said 900, Wikipedia said 2,500… whatever. There were never more than like eight guys chasing the team at a time, so I think we can assume they have the human resources to chase a handful of fugitives around California. I think this instantly wins as my least-intensive research project of all time.
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Wild Guess Preview: You’ll never see a lighter mission than this one: a local handbell choir hires the A-Team to get them a slot in the church’s annual Christmas pageant. Hannibal asks the director if there’s room, and the guy says yes. Since the mission took 15 minutes and one phone call the team doesn’t get a fee, but is instead paid in Christmas cookies, which are a bit heavy on the flour but go down fine with a little milk. I think the special effects guys were on vacation this week.
So what if it was Ditka vs. The A-Team in a football game?
The Recap: The A-Team is ready for some football! Well, Face is, anyway; he’s coaching his old Catholic high school’s team, coming up with tricky offensive feints and misdirection plays. B.A. is coaching the defensive line; he says Face’s strategy relies on deception, so the defense has to act first: “A man can’t deceive you if he’s sitting on his butt!” Face thinks the defense is a little too fired up, seeing as how they’re tackling their own QB during a scrimmage. B.A. shakes him off, and tells his men to “kill those suckas!” on the next play.
Templeton Peck, thirtysomething all-city quarterback
Hannibal and Murdock are watching in the bleachers, by the way; so this is the new A-Team mission, coaching Catholic school football? Murdock is impressed by Coach B.A. and declares that “the Baracan One” is now his only hero, surpassing Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. On hearing about this, B.A. waves Murdock off with the greatest line in TV history: “Got no time for the jibba-jabba!” But this only impresses Murdock more: “The man speaks in verse!”
Coach Face has no time for jibba jabba either: he needs to find a new quarterback! The current QB, Billy, says he can’t play in the big game; he won’t say why, but it’s probably because thugs are spying on him and putting homing devices on his gold Firebird (borrowed from The Rockford Files?). Billy drives away; the team follows in the awesome van, and the thugs follow the team. So seriously, the A-Team is going to fight a rival Catholic school? Billy drives to an apartment building and appears to zip up his pants as he goes inside.
The team, noticing the thugs, takes positions outside the building; the thugs take their own positions and call for backup. Billy visits someone named Charlotte, who’s in hiding. She says “all of us have agreed not to work for Dave,” even though no one else is there and we don’t know who Dave is. (Charlotte is played by Deborah Lacey, who plays Carla the maid on “Mad Men.” I don’t watch “Mad Men,” but I don’t want to miss a chance to boost my search rankings. Mad Men Mad Men Mad Men.) Billy and Charlotte leave the apartment to go hide, which they were already doing in the apartment. B.A. and Hannibal recognize Charlotte as Charlotte King, “the lead singer with The Bells.” The thugs show up and try to kidnap Charlotte at gunpoint, but Murdock and Face shoot off a few rounds, and then Hannibal grabs the lead thug’s gun and they all make a getaway in the van. “Who are they?” Charlotte asks. “They’re my football coaches,” Billy explains.
The team asks the rest of The Bells to drop by a warehouse so they can find out what’s going on. Turns out The Bells had been working for Luna Records, only they had a pretty rotten contract. Luna got 90% of the profits, so the group opted not to re-sign. Now Luna’s trying to force them back into the fold. A lot of slimy record producers in season 3, eh? Hannibal says the team can help, but the group will have to lay low for a few days; Charlotte says they can’t do that because The Bells are singing at a charity event this weekend. Ok, Hannibal says he’ll just go confront Luna then.
And so he does, interrupting Dave Luna as he chews out a bald thug. He introduces himself as “Danny Diamond, manager to the stars,” and says he’s The Bells’ new manager; Face is his assistant, “Lonnie.” Luna says get out or “you’ll be taking all your meals through a tube.” Hannibal says ok, but first you have to hand over all the money you stole from the Bells. The thugs walk in, but Hannibal disarms them and warns Luna that “next time we’ll put you in the obituary column.” Ouch.
Now we move from one kind of action to another: the team is, well, distracted by this four-pack of ladies traipsing around their secret hidden apartment in swimsuits. Hannibal says they have a rule about messing around with clients, but even he’s smitten (of course, he broke his own “rule” a few episodes back with the fire chief in Haleyville, too). Hannibal also says he thinks Dave Luna is a front for someone else, so there’s more investigating to do.
B.A. and Murdock are setting up in a decoy apartment down the hall, to keep an eye out for Luna and his men. This is a wise move, because some new thugs, much doughier than the first group, are trying to bust into the secret apartment. The team and the Bells all watch from down the hall; “these guys,” Hannibal says, “are gonna be a lot more fun.” Face notes that Hannibal is on the jazz. The thugs discover some of Hannibal’s hidden mics and they all start trash-talking; they even confirm Hannibal’s hunch that there’s a bigger honcho involved than Luna. Then they drive away, with the whole team following in four separate cars. Charlotte also drives off to check on Billy, even though Hannibal specifically told the Bells to stay inside with the door locked. The remaining thug follows her.
George Peppard’s memoir totally should’ve been called Spray-painting Dr. No
The thug van pulls up in a parking lot, and the doughy thug talks with… ohmygod that’s Joseph Wiseman! The A-Team is fighting Dr. No! Technically, he’s Zeke Westerman, reclusive business tycoon, and he has a proposition for Hannibal. (Murdock, meanwhile, has disarmed the thugs by yelling “drop your guns and drop your pants.” Nice.) Zeke wants to buy the Bells’ contract back from Hannibal for a million bucks, but the colonel says no sale (Face groans when Hannibal turns down the offer). In that case, Zeke says, the Bells won’t ever perform again. Hannibal says yeah they will. “We have challenged each other, sir,” Zeke replies. “Now we have only to see who wins.” Hannibal ensures it’ll be he who wins by spray painting Dr. No blue.. “Why blue?” Face wonders. “Cause they were out of green paint,” says Hannibal. Genius! Hannibal wants Zeke so mad that he gets personally involved, so he’ll end up in Hannibal’s trap. Also genius!
The Bells are onstage, doing a soundcheck, but Hannibal’s convinced the Bells aren’t out of harm’s way just yet. Charlotte gets a phone call from Zeke, who says he’s kidnapped Billy, and that Hannibal must return the Bells’ contract by 6:30 that night or Billy is finished. Hannibal tells Zeke he’s stooping might low, and Zeke says “son, I’m so low I can walk under a swamp alligator with my hat on!” Charlotte, who led the thugs directly to Billy, apologizes for ruining the entire mission, but Hannibal promises to “have Billy back before the curtain goes up.”
No, see, Priority Mail takes up to three days, but it’s usually just two
And this he can do, because B.A. thought ahead and planted a bug on Zeke’s car! Murdock is elated, and calls B.A. “the Baracan god” again. This irritates Face, but B.A. defends him!?! “I don’t know why you guys are always picking on Murdock. He ain’t so bad.” Murdock is so happy he channels the Festrunk brothers from Saturday Night Live and says the team is “a groovy bunch of happening guys.” They arrive at the compound and find their positions just as the thugs put Billy in their van. Hannibal kicks off his plan by dressing up as a postman and handing the doughy thug a letter; he punches the guy and then shoots at the thugs’ getaway cars. They get past him, but then it’s on to part two of the plan: B.A. and Murdock have somehow commandeered a construction vehicle and flip over the getaway car with some fancy shooting. Zeke tries one last bribe: “I could make it worth your while, Smith,” but Hannibal just smiles: “You already have.”
Murdock flies past the defenders, he’s got nothing but daylight!
So Billy is cleared to play football again, which is not really that fun: Coach Face and Coach B.A. are leading the St. Mary’s football squad to a pretty one-sided loss. And poor Murdock is beside himself, since his hero B.A. hasn’t been able to lead his men to victory! After a little pep talk from Hannibal, Murdock sees the solution in front of him, and so he runs out onto the field and catches Billy’s pass for a touchdown… of sorts. B.A. yells “GET OFF THE FIELD, FOOL” and now everything is truly back to normal.
Oh man, was this one fun. Plot fits together nicely, great guest appearance from Dr. No, and the B.A./Murdock relationship being turned on its head was pure genius. AND, we didn’t have to hear much of the music group, which is always a turnoff for me in these kinds of episodes. But since there’s a recurring theme of sinister record producers this season, let’s wrap up with some other record producers the A-Team could tackle in future episodes:
George Martin: after spending a decade as the Beatles’ go-to guy in the studio, Martin built up a huge paramilitary group just outside of London. His goal: to take control of every polo pony in England.
Mutt Lange: building a satellite that, once launched, will control the weather. Also co-wrote Bryan Adams hit “Everything I Do, I Do It For You.”
Phil Spector: no comments necessary.