“Tow truck drivers, is this a normal part of your duties? ‘Job includes travel, long hours, murder’?”

Baseball’s playoffs are underway, another indication that the year is drawing to a close faster than I might like, and another distraction that could tear me away from finishing up this project. It’s crunch time for these players, and it’s crunch time for this A-Team recapper, too. As I get shorter and shorter on time, it’s time for me to make some decisions about what I’m willing to sacrifice to see this project through:

The A-Team project is more important than this stuff right now:
Baseball playoffs
Current prime time TV
Home improvement projects
Putting out that fire in the basement
Hiring John Travolta to arm-wrestle the E-Trade baby
Drag racing parade floats
Rescuing Aerosmith from an oppressive world government

You can see this project is now a top priority for me, and will remain so until we finish. Of course, I don’t want to take it too seriously:

Things that remain more important than the A-Team project
Finding sacks of money on the street

I do have some perspective, after all.

Knights of the Road

Wild Guess Preview: NBC officially has a license to print money with the first ever A-Team/Knight Rider crossover. There’s even a big time villain, with Lee Van Cleef as a blown glass magnate who wants to flood the world with pricey trinkets. But it’s all downhill from there: Michael Knight keeps telling the team how hungry he is, and at first Hannibal tries to focus back on the mission. But then Murdock says he’s hungry too, and then Face says he could go for a little food, and then they all go to White Castle. For an hour.

The Recap: Welcome to “Arriba, New Mexico – 3 miles from the Mexican border.” There actually is such a place, lest you think this episode was written by former Intercontinental Champion Tito “Arriba!” Santana, but it’s a little more like three hundred miles to the Mexican border. There’s a tow truck from Corson Garage keeping the streets of Arriba safe from people parked in loading zones and what have you. There’s also an EVIL tow truck from Tyler Towing; it’s made of an alien symbiote coating (probably) and it follows the honorable Corson truck around and steals its business. Corson objects to this unfair business practice by getting punched repeatedly in the stomach by Tyler’s drivers; his daughter Jenny objects too, mostly by crying “Dad! Dad!” as her old man absorbs heavy damage to the solar plexus. The lead Tyler thug, Carl, makes Jenny an offer: “Want to play house to save Papa?” She refuses because he’s evil and remarkably oily. Also worth noting: Jenny says “let me go” during this exchange, even though no one’s actually holding her. Maybe she means let me go emotionally? Carl smashes up the Corson truck just to be an ass.

Carl smashes Corson's windshield

“I’m gonna get those punks if it kills me,” Corson says – big words from a guy who’s just been beaten up. “If only I could’ve found the A-Team when it was in L.A.” True, but since the A-Team is parked next to your garage, maybe things will work out after all. Corson invites the team inside and explains that Tyler is not only trying to run their garage out of town, they’re ripping off the citizenry, randomly towing away cars and making up violations after the fact. (I had a landlord like that once; I guess I should’ve hired the team.) Hannibal can’t understand why Tyler even wants the garage at all, since they make such little money; Corson figures maybe it’s because he has a contract to tow cars over the Mexican border. B.A. is mad that some “buzzards” are trying to take down honest people like the Corsons. Hannibal: “We’ll just have to bend their beaks, won’t we?”

And we get a montage right away, to show just how serious the team is about the beak-bending! There isn’t much armor plating around, but they do add some metal screens to protect Corson’s windshields. Murdock is enthralled by all the auto parts laying around; he tells Face this isn’t a yard of junk, but a field of mechanical souls, so to speak. Face: “I’d never thought of it that way, Murdock.” “You haven’t read much Bradbury, have you?” Murdock drops only the choicest names. He also drops little bits of motor oil on Faceman’s tie.

The team is set to drive out to provoke Tyler; they even do some walkie-talkie traffic announcing their trip because they know Tyler’s listening. Murdock starts up a rap about how the team has become “like priests on the road,” which causes B.A. to growl and cover his ears. He continues: “We’re KNIGHTS… OF THE ROAD! When you’re stranded on the road, who do you call? Yes, the tow… truck… driver… The souls, they linger, in each and every car.” They drive off.

Meanwhile, south of the border, a wealthy Mexican guy called Zuniga takes a call (on a very fancy phone; it’s almost prissy) from Tyler, the namesake of the evil tow truck company. Tyler says he’ll have Corson out of the way in less than a week. But Corson’s not out of the way; with the team on hand, he’s actually back on the road. Murdock is now trying to make Face hold his hand while he recites the extensive “tow truck driver’s creed,” and then Jenny dispatches them to a towing location. Hannibal and B.A. radio that they’ll be there too, and that they expect to have a little fun with Tyler. “I’m gonna enjoy this,” B.A. laughs.

B.A. headlocks two thugs
B.A. is trained in street fighting, pugilism and Stooge-style tactics

Face and Murdock get to the broken down car, followed by Tyler’s men. Carl, the guy who punched Corson out before, makes Face an offer: “you move this truck and I won’t break your face too badly.” But Murdock tells him to “begone” in the name of the Knights of the Road. Since they have no idea what the heck he’s on about, they get into a fight, won easily by the Face/Murdock combo. More Tyler guys show up, but so do Hannibal and B.A.; the colonel dispatches his attacker by opening his truck door, while B.A. slams his guy’s head into the side of the truck. For the coup de grace, Hannibal hoists the thugs with their own tow truck and drives them back to Tyler.

“That ought to get Tyler’s attention,” Hannibal laughs. And he’s right – Tyler is honked off at his drivers, who he calls “Girl Scouts,” and the team, who he wants to humble. He tells his drivers to arm themselves and “waste” anyone who comes near their trucks. If there are any tow truck drivers visiting our site, is this a normal part of your duties? “Job includes travel, long hours, murder”? Tyler says they only have a week “or Zuniga’s gonna cut out on us.”

As they walk out, one of the Tyler drivers offers his cohorts $50 to find the team – and sure enough, Face is hiding among them, scamming another Tyler driver about checking the radios in their trucks. B.A. and Murdock are doing the “checking,” and it lets them listen in on Tyler’s radio calls. It also enables a montage of dirty tricks against Tyler – letting the air out of their truck tires, B.A. pounding the crap out of their drivers again, and then using a Corson truck to do the towing.

Jenny is thrilled: business is up threefold! But she’s less thrilled about Face’s latest attempt to hit on her, and scurries away as he starts to get fresh. Face is stuck talking to Murdock, who keeps offering him touchy-feely advice on relationships. He tells Face to go into the office and show Jenny some of the romantic charisma he’s got in abundance. Face makes a good attempt, and Jenny concedes that he is “nice, and charming, and witty – you’re even good looking,” but still she holds back. Just then Hannibal hears the Tyler guys talking on the radio about delivering “the package” to a car parked somewhere. “If Corson’s guys get this one away from us, it’s over.” This is massively suspicious, so Hannibal starts mulling over a plan. B.A.: “He’s on the jazz now.”

Hannibal wants to put a package of their own in the car, and said package is Murdock, who somehow ends up in the glove compartment! The Tyler people come by and drop off their package, and they swap the car’s US license plates for Mexican diplomatic plates so they can get it over the border without a search (they also have fake diplomatic papers). The awesome van does not have diplomatic immunity, so the team can’t cross the border and follow; as B.A. puts it, “that fool’s on his own now.” They go back to Corson’s and hope that Murdock can get to a phone in Mexico.

Murdock licks a whole page of stamps
Murdock’s really mailing in this episode. Ha!

The Tyler dudes drive up to Zuniga’s mansion, and they hand off their package, which is actually a briefcase. Murdock disembarks too, climbing the walls of the compound while doing his own Howard Cosell play-by-play. Tyler hands Zuniga the briefcase, which has $300,000 inside; in return Tyler gets to smuggle drugs back into the US. When they leave Murdock grabs the briefcase from a locked cabinet, takes all the money out and mails it to Corson Towing! He also calls Hannibal to tell him the whole scheme, though he’s not sure of his location: “I’m either in Mexico, or at a swap meet.”

B.A. smashes a car and smiles
Notice how B.A. has the same warm smile when he’s helping underprivileged kids or smashing a car filled with drug smugglers? Is that creepy at all?

“Tyler’s bringing in a load of drugs,” Hannibal says. “We’ve got work to do.” So they head Tyler off as he crosses the border, forcing him off the road and finding the drugs in the back of the car they’re towing. Hannibal: “Look, Face, powdered sugar!” “Not my brand,” says Face. Ha. Tyler won’t say where Zuniga lives, so Hannibal brings Tyler, Carl and the other guy back to Corson’s garage, putting them in a car which B.A. starts crushing. “We’re gonna squeeze the truth out of you,” says Hannibal. Tyler thinks they’re bluffing, but then B.A. starts the squeeze and Tyler starts to freak out. “This is murder!” he yells, but B.A. says no: “This is pest control.” Finally Tyler gives up Zuniga’s address.

Hannibal has Zuniga’s location, now he needs the right equipment to really put the kibosh on the drug lord. Jenny shows him the biggest tow truck they have, and it’s as big as a bus, but it’s broken down and in bad shape. But B.A. reminds them of his mad skills – “if it’s got wheels, I can fix it” – and with that we launch into a montage to fix up the thing, in a very “Extreme Makeover: Vigilante Tow Truck Edition.” Wow, B.A. finds a bird’s nest inside the truck, and it’s got three eggs in there! The fixed truck looks pretty much like the broken one, albeit a little cleaner and carrying Zuniga’s car, now crushed into a cube, behind it. They drive to a border fence, where Hannibal says “there’s more than one way to get south of the border.” He’s referring to the “take pliers to the fence and cut yourself a path to Mexico” way, if you were wondering.

They drive up to Zuniga’s house and force all the guards to surrender at gunpoint. Zuniga tries to pay them off, but when he unlocks his cabinet he finds the empty briefcase. Hannibal explains the money has been mailed to Corson; then he has B.A. drop the crushed car into Zuniga’s garden pond. “We thought we’d bring your car back,” Hannibal says. Thoughtful guy. Zuniga swears that the team “will never leave Mexico alive,” though Hannibal shrugs at this.

Murdock is a bandito
This jail bar was made in New York City! NEW YORK CITY?!?

They decide to take Zuniga and his friends to la policia; B.A. thinks that’s asking for trouble, but Hannibal says they’re not wanted in Mexico so there shouldn’t be a problem. Which means there is one, and it’s pretty big: Zuniga turns out to be “Captain of Police,” so the team gets arrested. “So much for law and order,” Hannibal says. But all is not lost – remember, Murdock is already in Mexico waiting to rendezvous with the team! And he does this, breaking down their jail wall while dressed as a bandito. Zuniga and Tyler suspect they’re headed back to Corson’s to get the mailed money, and Tyler says “If we team up we can tear ’em apart.”

The team is indeed at Corson’s, and they know Tyler’s bringing an army down on them. So we get a third montage, with the team rigging up some barrels or something. So when Zuniga and Tyler and their friends arrive, the team uses their new deathmobile to scare the dudes, then shoot at them. Zuniga tries a getaway, but they ram his getaway car and it catches on fire (“Dateline NBC” must’ve done the preparations) and Hannibal punches his ass out. Carl and the other guy get the obligatory truck flip, thanks to a Murdock grenade. Tyler tries to flee in a truck that won’t start; Face holds him at gunpoint and quips “there’s no business like tow business!”

Murdock hangs onto his bumper
You gotta grab it with both hands/you gotta keep hanging on

Time to wrap up. Corson and Jenny are happy because their business is safe, and Zuniga and Tyler are in jail where they belong. Jenny gives Face a little goodbye kiss (she did like him!) and Murdock gets to take a bumper home as a memento of the mission. Where the heck is B.A.? Oh, he’s over by the machine with the giant electromagnet, and when he switches it on, Murdock and his bumper fly into the air. He laughs, we close.

Most disjointed episode ever, even more than the last one. It’s like they had three writing teams write the same episode and then they used pieces of each team’s work in the final version. Murdock kept switching gimmicks, the pacing was weird, there was a new montage like every two minutes… yeah. But there were some great moments in the middle; my favorite was when Murdock was hiding in Zuniga’s house, listening to him and Tyler talk about their drug deal. Murdock did a silent mimicking of their talking, and it was great. Also, for some reason, the director used all these arty shots from behind plants, underneath trucks, all of that. So a mixed bag. But it’s one step closer to our own little Fall Classic. Or whatever.

Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 19 – Moving Targets | Next episode: Season 3, Episode 21 – Waste ‘Em