Patrick Swayze was a master of subtlety compared to this episode’s villain.

There’s been a lot of talk about military this week. Nationally, of course, there’s been talk about how the US mission in Iraq is now officially civilian rather than military, and that troop levels are below 50,000 for the first time since the war began. In my home state, the New Hampshire National Guard is starting a major deployment to Kuwait, supporting the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a friend of the family is back from a year in Iraq at the same time. All of this activity has most normal news-following adults considering the complex geopolitical and social issues. And then there’s me, who woke up today with one question in mind: would the military have the manpower to look for the A-Team today? Would there be a Colonel Decker to chase Hannibal and company from coast to coast, or would whoever’s in his job have enough on their plate at the moment? I suppose they could always have Mark Harmon do it, but really, do you see Mark Harmon catching the A-Team? I don’t, and I like Mark Harmon.

I’m doing the research, heaven help me, and hope to have an answer for you by the next episode. If you have ideas, send ’em along, cause I’m no expert on military affairs that don’t happen in the course of 80s TV shows.

The Island

Wild Guess Preview: A bell rings out on a lush tropical island, but instead of “the plane,” the man in the white suit yells out “the awesome van, the awesome van!” In the biggest crossover TV event of the 80s, Tattoo and Mr. Rourke host The A-Team on Fantasy Island. Rourke’s people have a little trouble with B.A.’s fantasy, as it can be hard to get a hold of ten thousand underprivileged kids and a sprawling ashtray factory, but Murdock’s fantasy of meeting the Whammy from Press Your Luck is a big hit.

The Recap: The South Pacific is looking fuzzier than usual, what with all the L.A. smog overhead and all. Nonetheless, the locals seem happy and enjoy the tropical background music. Then, a problem: somebody on a fishing boat got scratched up by a hook in his arm. They’re gonna hire the A-Team for that? Oh, actually they’re gonna hire the A-Team because of those scary looking guys in the other boat coming ashore. Their boat has two Jeeps in it, and they drive around shooting the place up. The island doctor, Fallone, fights back with his handgun, but he’s up against like ten dudes with submachine action so it’s slightly ineffectual and he gets shot in the arm. The thugs take his gun and grimace at him. “What do you want?” asks the doctor. “This island,” says lead soldier Vescari, a sort of a Pat Riley-meets-Mad Max type. He wants the island because it’s a sovereign nation and “no one can touch us” as a result – I guess he missed that whole Grenada thing.

Classified ad says 'A-TEAM WANTED'

“Smoking OK, no drugs or drinking. Must have clean driving record.”

Fallone, the doctor, realizes the island is in trouble, so he hands his dog tags to a ten year old kid named Nicky and tells him to ride a boat to Los Angeles to find the A-Team. This is so implausible that even the script writers don’t fully buy it; Nicky does go to L.A., but he takes out a classified ad about how Fallone is in trouble. The team definitely remembers the guy; Hannibal says Fallone was “the best medic we had in ‘Nam,” and B.A. says the doc saved his life once. Face plays devil’s advocate and asks if the ad is “one of Decker’s tricks” (I guess Colonel Briggs didn’t work out?) but B.A. insists “we gotta go in,” and so they head to the awesome van to, um, drive to the South Pacific.

Colonel Decker grabs the hotel manager

You’re gonna pay for “The Dark Crystal,” pal!

The classified ad might not have been a trick, but Face was right to worry about Decker; the cranky man with the giant field radio is indeed out hunting for the team. He bursts into a hotel room and finds not the A-Team but young Nicky. The hotel manager, a nervous Jim Henson-looking guy, is there as well. He’s yelling at Decker, not because the Army broke into a private business without a warrant, but because he has too many soldiers in the same room (the limit is two)! Decker thinks the manager is Hannibal in disguise and starts pulling on the guy’s beard, but he’s actually just Jim Henson and so they head out with Nicky in custody. But as they head to their cars, the team is there to shoot a lot, make fun of Decker and then rescue the kid.

The team considers their options as they escape in the awesome van. Hannibal is waxing philosophical about how Fallone moved to an island to get away from war, and yet he’s been shot in the arm and taken prisoner by some goofy group or other. He says they should help Fallone; besides, Decker can’t follow them to the island because it’s a sovereign nation. Murdock, who’s been poring through a thick research book, is intrigued: “Why don’t we get our own island? I always wanted to start a democratic society.” Hannibal says they need a plan… and a plane. “No plane, Hannibal,” says B.A. “No plane.” “Right,” says Hannibal, and he asks Face to get a boat instead, though they actually end up knocking B.A. out off-camera and flying anyway.

The team is on the beaches of Unnamed Island Nation, with a groggy, cranky B.A. complaining about being tricked onto a plane yet again. Hannibal wants Face to infiltrate Vescari’s base and find Dr. Fallone. B.A. hands him a homing device and Face says sure, I’ll wear it, but Hannibal expects some heavy searches when the villains find him, so Face is supposed to swallow the thing. That plan doesn’t go over well, but B.A. cuts him off with another classic line: “I made it- YOU EAT IT.” Hannibal also says that whatever it is Face has to do, he has only an hour to do it. None of this makes Face feel any better.

Elsewhere on the island, Vescari is chewing on a super-size deluxe scenery combo meal, declaring “this is my island… I do what I want!” Apparently what he wants is to pick on some old farmer guys, cause that’s what he does. And then, out of the ocean comes Face, stumbling around like a drunk, carrying an empty wine glass and shouting “Oh, Flipper!” Captain Overacting tells his men to “take him to the fortress.”

This very elaborate and well-furnished “fortress” also features unlocked gates! Face sneaks around to look for Fallone, and he finds both the doc and his assistant, Kalani. Fallone is happy to see Lieutenant Peck, but his arm is still badly injured and Face says they’ll have to get him to a hospital for treatment. The rest of the team has been following the homing beacon, so they blow up a fortress wall, rescue the prisoners and head for the hills just as Vescani’s soldiers realize what’s going on and start shooting. Vescani promises to trap the team between two columns of soliders, but this fails completely and the team makes a clean getaway. Vescani is irked and says “we’re going into the village” in a ridiculous way. Patrick Swayze was a master of subtlety compared to this episode’s villain.

Murdock finds a crocodile in the South Pacific

An African croc in the South Pacific? Crikey!

The team intends to go to the village, too, but their truck breaks an axle along the way and they drive off into a ditch, one that happens to hold a vintage World War II tank. Murdock, doing some of his research on flora and fauna, peeks in the barrel and finds a crocodylus niloticus – quite a find in the South Pacific, given that the Nile Crocodile lives in Africa! B.A. tries to lift the doc’s spirits by giving him one of his gold chains “for good luck,” but Murdock races over to show off his mini crocodile, who he’s named Wally Gator, like the cartoon character. B.A. wants none of that action: “you know I can’t stand lizards!”

Vescari uses his robot hand

His name’s Vescari. He irritates people.

Vescari’s men are in the village, wrecking everything in sight, including the food- isn’t that counterproductive now that we’re on Vescani’s Island of Overacting? Vescari, by the way, has some kind of bionic arm device over his right hand, giving him a James Bond villain vibe. The villagers swear they don’t know where the team is, so Vescani tells his soldiers to “get the stuff off the island” as soon as possible, and they do a little old man-hassling just for good measure.

Face and B.A. are sneaking right past all this inept villainy, climbing through the floorboards of Nicky’s house. Nicky’s mom wants to evacuate, but B.A. sets her straight: “The A-Team don’t run. And if you people leave, this guy’s got you beat.” Kalani, who’s serving as the episode’s wet blanket, snickers at all the goings-on: “Four men come out of nowhere and think they can defeat an army.” Face snickers at her: “We’ve done it before.”

Hannibal disguised as a farmer

Are you sure Hannibal done it this way?

Hannibal, meanwhile, is with the old farmer guys, disguised as Waylon Jennings. He sneaks up on a guard, knocks him out and steals his uniform. And he infiltrates the soldiers’ secret drug lab, where he finds Vescari overemoting down a corridor. “Hi there,” he says, drawing his gun and promising to “cream your whole operation.” Vescari serves up another line read from hell: “You’re a DEAD MAN.” Hannibal doesn’t think so, and he shoots up the heroin lab before making his escape.

Hannibal has a plan to attack from the west side of the island at noon, a plan he says is foolproof. Face, of course, doesn’t buy this, especially when he finds out Hannibal told Vescari they were coming. Hannibal says Murdock is off getting supplies and will be back. But Kalani sneaks off to see Vescani; she gives him details on Hannibal’s plan, on condition that the villagers will be left alone. SHE ROLLED ON THE A-TEAM! Vescani decides to break his promise not to bother the villagers about four seconds after she’s out the door. He also decides to attack the village in the morning… “when they LEAST ex-PECT it.” Dialogue coach, you’re fired.

Loading the tank with ammo

It takes a village to restore a tank

And now, the plan. Murdock dropped Fallone off at a hospital… somewhere, and “brought back some tank ammo.” Which is good, because the rest of the team is trying to rebuild that old WWII tank. Preparation is a little easier when the vehicle is already a tank! Finally they fire it up and Hannibal declares it “a beaut.” Hannibal is happy: “Y’know, Face, I like having a tank.” He then tells the team to prepare for an attack from the east at 11:15. Kalani is confused, but Hannibal explains he only told her the “west at noon” plan because he knew she’d stooge to Vescari. Clever as ever.

Vescari’s men line up in the west, as the tank rolls in from the east. Hannibal and Face have machine gun positions on top of the tank; B.A. is inside the tank with Murdock, who is singing the “Wally Gator” cartoon theme to his little croc in a grizzled “Patton” sort of voice, adding “War is hell, Wally Gator, but we know about war and we know about hell.” The soldiers are completely caught off guard by the surprise eastern attack, though the tank is so damn big and impressive against infantry that the surprise factor wouldn’t have made a difference (anybody who’s ever played Command and Conquer knows what I’m talking about). One of the tank rounds hits a villainous Jeep; it doesn’t flip over, but they launch it like 200 feet, which is equally cool. The tank CRASHES through a wall of the Vescari compound and they catch the man at turret point. Hannibal laughs at Vescari, who knows he’s in hot water: “Any questions?”

B.A. sees a croc

B.A.’s least favorite movies: “Crocodile 2” and “Airplane”

Doc Fallone is back, as is Nicky, and everybody in the village is tripping over themselves to thank the team. Hannibal says “just keep the sun shining on this island… I just might retire here.” Murdock is planning to bring Wally back to the States with him, but B.A. finds this preposterous: “What if his mama is looking for him?” Murdock walks around a corner and finds a full-size croc, which he points out to a very nervous B.A. “You were right! Here’s mama!” And we’re out.

This one was pretty light from start to finish, but I liked it. Decker’s return is welcome, and B.A.’s lizard-phobia made for some fun moments. It did have the most cartoonish villain yet, though; this guy’s line reads were more dangerous than any of his drugs or guns. And why give the guy a bionic arm and not let him try to use it?

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