Helping a youth home? B.A. is gonna love this mission.
Hearing Mr. T’s classic quote “I ain’t afraid to fly, and I ain’t afraid of no monkeys either” in the last episode reminded me of how A-Team quotes are a big part of my own online history. I got onto the web in the mid 90’s; I started with the Lynx browser, all text-based, used Yahoo when it had a tan background, and clicked a lot of sites that had no images, no sound and, very obviously, no video. It was maybe a year later, 1995, when I finally found a few sites with sound clips; my roommate and I had two computers, one with a web connection and one with a sound card, so we’d download the WAV file to a floppy disk on the one computer and play it on the other.
And somewhere along the line I found a site that had a massive collection of A-Team sound files, mostly Mr. T, but a few of the other guys as well. This collection, along with a few Star Wars clips and a handful of great William Shatner moments, were my entire collection of digital audio for quite a few years. But I’d never heard any of these wonderful A-Team moments in context until starting this project. Now I know that there was, in fact, a monkey involved when B.A. said he wasn’t afraid of monkeys. And I know why B.A. didn’t have time for the jibba jabba. It’s a bit like Plato’s cave; now I can’t see these quotes in quite the same way. But I say, why not enjoy it? I ain’t afraid of quotes about being afraid to fly, and being afraid of quotes about being afraid of monkeys either.
Wild Guess Preview: When a semi-truck filled with traffic cones jackknifes outside B.A.’s community center one afternoon, the team organizes a street fair and track meet for the neighborhood kids. This angers some old guy, for whom the fair is in the way of his daily trip at 2:30 pm for the early bird dinner special. He rounds up some of the guys he knows from the sauna at the local gym, and they raise holy heck during the 50 yard dash. B.A. can’t bring himself to beat up a posse of senior citizens, even cranky ones, so instead he forces them to order food from the regular, full price menu as punishment.
The Biff Tannen of 2015 stops by a pool hall in 1985 on his way back to 1955.
The Recap: We’re at the Sullivan Home for Children, which has trees and toys and a Volvo station wagon and, of course, underprivileged kids (B.A. is gonna love this place). It also has a woman named Patty and her dad, an old guy called Jim Sullivan who’s stern and loving in a Conrad Bain sort of way. Also, as we learn from the thugs who burst through the door, Jim is the worst gambler in the world, and owes $30,000 and maybe more to gambling kingpin Johnny Royce. The thugs demand his youth home as repayment; Jim says he’ll never sell, so they punch him once and he sells. Daughter Patty is enraged because the thugs didn’t offer to pay real estate transfer tax, and because now the children will be homeless. So she goes to a pool hall and finds Hannibal in his old man disguise. Hannibal makes her sink a complicated corner shot as a test of character (?) and then reveals his identity.
The awesome van is on the road; Patty tells the team that her dad was “Gentleman” Jim Sullivan, a famous gambler. In his heyday Dad knew when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, but then he got out of the game and went honest, at least until he lost his straight job. But the comeback was pretty weak and now and they need help to get their home back. Patty offers to pay the team “somehow,” but B.A. says “we’ll do the job for nothin'”; even Face says there’s no need to worry about money for now. Hannibal smiles and says she just hired the A-Team. Murdock is on a kick about giving positive reinforcement, so he lauds Patty for her childrens home and cheers the team for helping it.
Hannibal says Royce is a crook on many fronts, but primarily gambling: “we slam the lid on that,” he says, and “we put him out of business.” So they drive up to Royce’s main hangout, Johnny’s Bar and Grill; hey, B.A. parked in front of a fire hydrant! Hannibal wants “a man on the inside” to find out where Royce runs his underground casino. Everyone immediately looks at Face. Ha.
Lieutenant Peck drops by the bar and grill in a leather jacket pretending to be Russ Dorsett, a small-time hood from Jersey who’s putting new records in the juke box on behalf of Royce’s criminal friend Joey Naples. Meanwhile, the rest of the team dons ski masks and holds up the bar and grill, with Hannibal decking Face to prove to Royce that “Russ Dorsett” is a thug to be trusted. It works: the team is barely out the door when Royce offers to talk to Joey Naples and get Face a better gig than loading jukeboxes. Face/Russ is very grateful, you know?
B.A., Hannibal and Murdock are on their way to Joey Naples’ house, or, rather, to a telephone pole just outside. Murdock runs a cord up the pole, and the team can not only listen to Royce’s calls, they can answer them; Hannibal pretends to be Joey Naples (with a cold) and he gives Royce the OK to hire Face/Russ. Royce falls for the scam, though the Naples flunkies figure out there’s a tap on their line, and they shoot at the van as the team pulls away.
At Hannibal’s, you’re gonna like the way you look.
Face is now knee-deep in the Royce organization, which is large by A-Team villain standards (three guys and a lady). His first job is to help with the casino operation, and to do that, he needs to go tuxedo shopping. Royce’s mustache sidekick Meeks goes along for the ride because he doesn’t trust Face/Russ yet. They go to a men’s clothing store where Hannibal is the fey clerk; Murdock is his dim-witted assistant who hands Meeks some special cufflinks (which B.A. bugged) and Face is giving Hannibal tips on the casino’s whereabouts as he gets measured.
Tuxedos + Cardboard = classy operation.
1423 Grant is the address, although Royce tells Face/Russ that he changes the casino’s location every day so the cops can’t find him. If you’re wondering how the gamblers find the place, as I was, well, Royce picks them up every day in an Econoline van. Hannibal was planning to rig their equipment tomorrow, but since they don’t know where said equipment will be, tomorrow, they improvise and shoot the crap out of the equipment today. Impressive, although it makes Royce mad and he says “I want them dead.”
YOU BETTER NOT TOUCH MY GOLD KID
By this time, Hannibal, B.A. and Murdock are back at the youth home (B.A.’s got a kid on each arm; no ashtrays yet, but it’s only a matter of time) and the colonel realizes that Royce will figure out Jim and Patty are involved in all the hubbub. So he picks up the phone to find them some help. “Get me Colonel Decker,” he says. Wait, what?
Face is still with Royce, and he offers to help rebuild his gambling operation through his own connections. Royce says sure, and he tells Meeks to pay Gentlemen Jim Sullivan a visit. But when he drives up, he finds Decker and his men, and so they get into a little firefight before driving away. Decker apprehends two of Royce’s dudes, at least, and Patty comes out and asks him, with a straight face, if those men were “the men who threatened me… the A-Team.” Decker says no, but he’s going to stick around in case the team shows up again.
Royce is unhappy with Meeks and his latest bungling; he wants results, not excuses. So when Face scams some casino props from World Wide Studios – isn’t that where Kermit and friends go in “The Muppet Movie”? – Royce pats him on the back and says he’s the “one guy in my operation who knows what he’s doing.” Face has also tipped off Hannibal that the next casino run is scheduled for 4 pm, so the team breaks into Royce’s warehouse and messes with the games. Hannibal adds magnets to the roulette wheels, Murdock adds a bag of loaded dice to the craps equipment, and they retool the slot machines to constantly pay off. B.A. is in the van; when he picks them up, he asks if everything worked. “No feedback, Murdock” – he’s sick of positive reinforcement – “Just nod.” Murdock nods.
Royce’s gambling pickup service drops off some gamblers at his warehouse; you can tell they’re gamblers because they’re all wearing cowboy hats and bolo ties. Royce explains that instead of going to a different warehouse, “we’re going to take our action on the road.” He’s set up a casino in a truck! Murdock and B.A. are watching, and they realize a mobile casino throws off their whole plan. So they stop by some airfield to borrow a chopper; Murdock tells B.A. “I want your feedback” at the end of the scam! But B.A. has no patience for scams; when Murdock introduces himself to the airfield mechanic as a representative of the “Committee to Save the Brown Pelican,” B.A. interrupts him: “We need this chopter, and we need it NOW, sucka!” The helicopter mechanic says fine, take it. B.A. has invented the word “chopter,” which I will now use anytime there’s a helicop- er, chopter, scene on the show.
This is back when “double down” didn’t refer to a disturbing sandwich.
Face is inside the truck, of course, as Russ Dorsett. But Hannibal is there too, playing a Texas version of his gambling character, Uncle Ned the Neon Natural, from Season 2. He’s winning big, thanks to all the rigging he and Murdock added to the machinery, and Royce is flipping out: “this goes on another 20 minutes I’m broke.” Meeks blames Face/Russ for getting the equipment, and pulls a gun on him; Face knocks him out quickly with a few punches, but walks over to Hannibal and says “I’ve just been found out… now what?” Hannibal smiles and rolls another winning combination. Face tells Royce that “the cowboy” at the crap table is using loaded dice, so Royce drops by to find out what’s happening. He offers an office building as a prize if Hannibal rolls another winner, but makes him use a fresh set of dice, which are also loaded, so he wins again. Hannibal cashes out; Royce tells Face to take Meeks and “kill dis guy” when they get back.
Endgame begins with Murdock flying his chopter right up to the casinomobile. This freaks out the Royce drivers and they start swerving around, which shakes up the gamblers therein. B.A. is following the thugs’ backup car in the awesome van, and when he shoots out a tire… you guessed it, a flipover. They force the Royce truck to stop and subdue the drivers; B.A. employs a big left hook, while Murdock just ducks the other guy’s flying tackle and makes him knock himself out. Royce turns on Face for pretty much no reason; Face confesses, also for no reason. He punches Royce out to start a big casino-wide fistfight, which the team wins pretty easily. As Murdock punches out the last thug, a slot machine lights up and pays out tokens. Hannibal says he loves it when a plan comes together.
I hope Murdock’s long-range strategic plan involves plenty of chopters.
So the team holds a mortgage-burning party with Jim and Patty back at the childrens’ home, using all the gambling money Hannibal “won” from Royce. But wasn’t Decker supposed to be there? Jim promises not to gamble again, Murdock says he returned the chopter, and all the kids inform B.A. that their rooms are clean. In keeping with his feedback angle, Murdock starts evaluating the team’s performances during the mission; for example, Face could have “exhibited more cool” at the tuxedo shop. B.A. puts an end to this, and the episode, by grabbing Murdock.
A light but very fun episode. I kept waiting for Decker to come back in, but he never did. And I wouldn’t have minded more of the Joey Naples, the other gangster. Maybe they just ran out of time to plug it all in. But the plot points they do follow through on are good. Murdock’s positive feedback gimmick takes a little while to come together, but it’s fun. And Face is top-notch throughout; it’s a nice showcase for him. His Russ Dorsett scam would’ve fit nicely on “Jersey Shore.”
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