Does it not occur to these clod villains that killing Uncle Buckle-Up is a bad business move for a company that makes Uncle Buckle-Up dolls?

Today we’re hosting a little holiday preparation party, where we invite friends to come over and bake cookies and/or wrap presents with us. Last year we got the fireplace running, and we roasted some chestnuts (Mel Torme would’ve been so proud). It’s also a chance for me to make my annual batch of Christmas-flavored ice cream; I pull out the ice cream maker and put together some kind of recipe that’s intended to taste like Christmas. Some years it turns out better than others; the first year I made it was nearly perfect, a standard against which all others have been judged. Two years ago was a very confused jumble of peppermit, cinnamon, graham cracker and like 12 other things that was, um, not quite eaten as quickly.

Next year, though, I don’t want to host the party, I want to be invited to the party, by whoever made the amazing Mr. T cake!

a Mr. T cake

I confess that this is the only cake I’ve ever seen that I’m afraid to eat. But I’ll bet it’s been made with milk, treats its mother right, and is darned delicious. Only a fool wouldn’t dig in.

Uncle Buckle-Up

Wild Guess Preview: The A-Team heads to Detroit, where a small band of crash test dummies has had it with spending their days getting thrown through windshields and smacked by airbags. (Murdock volunteers to take their place, of course.) The team saves the day by installing Face as a senior vice president, but not soon enough to do anything about the Cadillac Cimmaron.

The Recap: It’s a happy family walking happily to a happy toy store, where the happy sign proudly proclaims, “Uncle Buckle-Up dolls sold here!” These Uncle Buckle-Up dolls are wicked popular – little kids, older kids, large kids with mustaches and plaid shirts… everybody wants a fuzzy chipmunk wearing a seat belt.

And I can see why now: Arte Johnson is TV’s own Uncle Buckle-Up! He’s taping his show at KCED-TV, teaching kids to avoid fire, trying to visit the hibernating “Ruff the Bear” and encouraging kids to pay close attention to the commercials. Once the cameras stop rolling, Buckle-Up, or Sid, as he’s known in human form, complains that Ruff the Bear has been spending too much time with “Mister Whiskey.” Ruff is played by his relative Jorge, a parolee who needs the job to stay out of jail. They argue all the way to the parking lot, where Jorge asks to borrow the car to get to a strip show (!). But there will be no exotic dancing in his astrological forecast today; two shaggy-haired thugs materialize from the 1970’s drive right into Jorge’s lane and cause him to flip the car over. This actually solves more problems for Sid than it creates, I have to say.

Hannibal does his bear impression
Bear, zombie, mummy… it’s kind of all the same

So how does the A-Team fit into all this? Well, with jackass Jorge out of commission, Sid needs a new Ruff the Bear… and Hannibal wants the part! Face thinks the part is all wrong for his grizzled colonel: “This bear sings and dances!” he says. “Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin did ‘Paint Your Wagon,’ they sang and danced,” Hannibal replies. “Did they look foolish?” “Indescribably so.” Not to worry, Hannibal says, he’s got Murdock to help him get into the inner psyche of the television-watching child. B.A. just shakes his head.

Ruff the Bear is just one of Sid’s many problems, though: he’s yelling at his lawyer/manager/etc. Preston for switching to a new toy manufacturer, who makes low-quality stuff. “It’s cheaper making the dolls in Asia,” he explains, drawing out the last word so it sounds like “AY-zhee-uh.” Kelly, another person who appears to be vaguely involved with the show, says actually that’s not true, and then Sid demonstrates how the heads come off the Uncle Buckle-Up dolls. “The HEADS come off… the HEADS come off!” He says they got a letter about a kid who ended up swallowing the eye off one of the dolls – “Me, Uncle Buckle-Up, an international symbol of child safety, and kids are swallowing my eyes!” Sid says he’ll go to the safety commission to complain. “I wouldn’t do that, Sid,” Preston says. “Watch me!” he says, and throws the doll at him.

By the way, Preston is played by Jonathan Goldsmith, who we now know as the Dos Equis guy. The Most Interesting Man in the World would have to have an A-Team connection to qualify for the title.

The team drops by the Uncle Buckle-Up studios for Hannibal’s Ruff the Bear audition. B.A. is as unimpressed as he is unclear on details; “I ain’t taking no orders from a chipmunk!” he says. Murdock, though, is convinced he can get Hannibal the part, provided he rewrites his resume to downplay his movie monster roles, like “the Killgator.” Murdock acquiesces on the credits, but he takes Hannibal’s cigar: “Ruff the Bear would never smoke!” Except that the last guy did too.

Audition time. Hannibal explains that he tried to play his scary roles with dimension and character. When he’s asked to roar, he declines, saying “bears don’t roar.” They have him roar anyway, and he does a roar like Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.” They’re not impressed. The rest of the team finds Hannibal and he looks down. “An actor can tell when his career is coming to an end… you can only play the Aquamaniac so many times before you’ve played ever aspect of his character. That was my chance at television immortality.” But again, Murdock reiterates that he knows the Uncle Buckle-Up show inside and out and can get Hannibal the part.

Those very ugly hoods are outside, planning another attempt on Sid’s life. When he walks out, they put on ski masks and punch him, warning him to stay away from the toy convention tonight. “A dead actor gets no residuals,” one of them says. Murdock sees this going down; he tackles one of the dudes but the other pulls out a gun and marches Sid to his car, where they all drive away. Murdock leads the rest of the team back to the van, yelling “They’re snatching Uncle Buckle-Up!” The ski mask guys are no match for B.A. and his driving prowess; he forces the dudes off the road, and the team punches them out and rescues Sid, who is grateful: “you want the job, you got it. Jorge may have rhythm, but you are Ruff the Bear.” See? Murdock was right.

Sid goes to the zoo with the team and talks about how his new merchandising guy, Preston is “a real fire-eater” who canceled the contract with Tamco Toys and “started sending us junk.” How can he fight back against such treachery? Hannibal has an idea: “You find their toybox, and you pull the wheels off of all the little trucks.” I didn’t understand the metaphor, but Sid did, so it’s all good.

Nick and Preston
I don’t always take over TV kids shows, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis.

I guess the toybox is at a big office building in California, because that’s where we’re headed next. And there’s an guy called Nicky behind a desk yelling at Preston. “I send you out to whack a chipmunk and you come back with a mouthful of excuses.” Oh, he’s David Seville! Preston says he’ll take care of Sid tonight at the toy convention. Nicky says he better.

The team is already at the toy convention, scoping out the scene before the public arrives. Hannibal wants to stand in for Sid tonight, but Sid says no thanks, “your friends can take care of us.” Then Robert Goulet (I think) walks in and tells Sid he has a phone call, which makes Hannibal and Kelly suspicious. I thought for sure it was a kidnapping trap, but no, they just called Sid to say they’ll kill him if he squeals about the bad toys. And he’s glum about this.

The show goes on anyway, and the ugly guys show up yet again. “Let’s go, I want to waste this chipmunk once and for all.” Does it not occur to any of these clods that killing Uncle Buckle-Up is a bad business move for a company that makes Uncle Buckle-Up dolls? They drive straight into the convention hall, but actually the show wasn’t going on, Hannibal was just playing a tape. The team shoots up pretty much the whole convention floor and chases the ugly guys back outside. For some reason they have like nine getaway cars, so everybody but one guy is able to get away. The last guy gets a punch in the mouth from B.A. “Let’s chat,” Hannibal adds.

Nicky’s mad again. “You blew it again? And this time you lost a man?” Preston feels bad, but he wants another chance cause this time he’s got an idea: he’s going to sit everybody down at dinner and tell them how he doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis. Or to kidnap Sid’s secret daughter. Nick says ok, but don’t screw it up. Preston also says Cobb, the guy he left behind, is “a good soldier” and won’t blab to these troublemakers.

B.A. holds a guy over a lion pit
B.A. ain’t afraid of monkeys OR lions!

That is, he won’t blab unless B.A. Baracus is dangling him over the side of the lion area of the zoo. He says Mr. Gretsch, aka Nick, is the guy they want, and he gives out the guy’s address, too. The team tells Kelly and Sid to set up a press conference for tonight, while the team goes to visit Nick. Sid insists he’s going too, because “this man has fouled my nest. I want to look him in the eye and tell him so.” For an old guy, Sid is pretty badass, in a Tommy Smothers sort of way. Ok, Hannibal says; Face will go with Kelly to Preston’s office while they all visit Nick.

Visit meaning storm into the place, of course: B.A.’s tearing up everything in sight. The toy guys see this and one of them says “Wouldn’t he make a great doll?” Uh, yeah. Nick is in his office, yelling at one of the ugly guys… because his toys are crappy and the heads fall off! Isn’t that the whole point? “Looks like they’re made to come off,” Hannibal says, and then he tells Nick to lead the team to the warehouse with the rest of the crummy merchandise. “And then you’re going to get out of the Uncle Buckle-Up business.”

Face fights a guy with giant matches
Face would’ve made a great American Gladiator.

Face and Kelly are finding some interesting things out about said Uncle Buckle-Up business: Preston’s ordered 200,000 dolls for the year, even though they only sell 100,000 in a typical year. Kelly makes calls to set up the press conference, and then she and Face spend a little time k-i-s-s-i-n-g on the Uncle Buckle-Up set before she makes more phone calls. Preston is there, and he tries to grab Kelly, but Face picks up the oversized match that Sid was using on the show and gets into a match-battle with the thug. He fights pretty hard, but he can’t overcome the two-to-one numbers. Not to worry, “Sidney’s no longer your shill,” he says, so it really doesn’t matter. Preston disagrees: “Let’s see what he’s got to say when we got his daughter hanging out the window.” Oh, Kelly is his daughter?

Sid and the team are at the warehouse, and Nick points out the crummy merchandise. Murdock and Sid inspect it, and oh dear, the dolls come apart because there’s heroin inside. But before they can do anything about it, Preston and his guy drop by with Face (“hi guys,” he says) and Kelly. Now they all have to give up their guns, and Nick takes Sid away to discuss business. With nothing left to do, B.A. teases Face about “messing around with Uncle Buckle-Up’s daughter.” “You animal,” Murdock adds.

Nicky takes Sid back to his office and tries to put pressure on him. It’s not working: “You can’t hurt me, and you can’t hurt my people,” he says with a sly smile. This guy is so badass! “Without me, you got nothing.” Nicky insists Sid will “make the most heartwarming endorsement ever heard” and that the others should all get killed. Then they’ll kill Sid too: “chipmunks are a dime a dozen.” He wants Preston to blow them all up in a warehouse fire: “Make me a tragedy.”

The team is trapped in a toy warehouse
When Batman villains build weapons with toys, it’s evil. But this is the A-Team, so it’s awesome.

But we know the team’s rule about being locked up: you start looking around for stuff to use. And with that, we get a TOY MONTAGE. Model rockets, plastic trumpets, dish sets, a remote controlled airplane, all put to good use. I think they’re even using Silly Putty as plastique. The ugly guys start pouring gasoline around the warehouse – yeah, fire marshals won’t notice that at all when they investigate – and then Hannibal gives the signal to stand by. He somehow blows the warehouse door off, then sends several RC planes into the air. This distracts Preston and the ugly guys; then the others move out of the warehouse behind giant Russian dolls. They start shooting bottle rockets out of BB guns. Oh my god this is a massively awesome fight scene. Murdock is controlling the RC planes, which drop explosive stuff at the thugs. Beautiful. Then they rush over to the TV studio, where Nick is forcing Sid to film a commercial for his crappy drug dolls, and B.A. punches him out. Afterward Sid finds a whiskey bottle Jorge left behind. Argh.

Hannibal as Ruff the Bear, with Uncle Buckle-Up
I love it when a bear costume comes together.

The thug problem is solved, and now Uncle Buckle-Up can finally introduce Hannibal as his new Ruff the Bear! Murdock loves it, though Face and B.A. still aren’t convinced. And out of nowhere, Jorge stumbles in and says “give me back my bear costume!” Sid explains that in entertainment “nepotism is what’s important” and so Jorge has to get his job back, but seeing as how he chooses that moment to collapse in an unconscious heap just off set, maybe Hannibal could stick around til the end of today’s show? Absolutely, Hannibal says. “It’s like ’42nd Street,'” he says. “I’m going out there a kid… and I’m coming back a star!”

Loved it. Everything was good. Absolutely everything. Arte Johnson, badass kids show star? Awesome. Fighting drug runners with remote control planes? Awesome. Loved it loved it loved it.

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