These Soviet guys are the worst-dressed invasion force ever. No wonder they’re working with a guy called Poncho.

Still at the airport in Philadelphia, waiting out a day full of weather delays and frustrated passengers. I can understand why people would be frustrated; it’s hard to find out exactly what’s going on. Even the staff doesn’t always know, and so they get caught in the middle. I only wish some of the passengers wouldn’t take out their frustrations by smelling bad. I appreciate that they’re not yelling, I appreciate that they’re not throwing things, or saying things like I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR RIGHT NOW, but don’t take it out on my olfactories. My nose didn’t cause the snowstorm either, pal!

The A-Team is Coming, The A-Team is Coming

Wild Guess Preview: A group of overzealous Revolutionary War reenactors hires the A-Team – at full price, mind you – to defeat their British “foes” at Bunker Hill, but in period costume with period weapons. The team digs in deep, so deep that the National Park Service brings in a military force to stop the reenactment from getting out of hand, but ends up causing a new Battle of Bunker Hill. Also, Murdock roams the streets of Boston on horseback, yelling “The A-Team is coming, the A-Team is coming!”

The Recap: It’s a dark night in… I have no idea where we are, actually. Oh, it’s Los Angeles, as usual. Two large Russian guys and meet with three non-Russian guys, all big, all armed. It’s Hunk-o-Beef day at Weapons Surplus! One of the non-Russians knows what the out-of-towners are here for: “Three cases of Uzis, ten thousand rounds of ammo, three grenade launchers and two anti-tank weapons.” Now imagine if he was wrong and these guys were just looking for the closest In & Out Burger?!? The Russians hand over a suitcase full of cash to the arms dealers, then test out a couple of the guns on a pop-up target.

Murdock, Face and Katrina in a limo with no top
Topless limos mean “The A-Team” is now rated for “suggestive vehicle content.”

The obvious segue here is to a ballet performance, which is where we go next. Murdock is just offstage, dressed as a 1930’s newspaper reporter, and Face is there too, dressed as some kind of laborer. Hannibal’s on hand too; he’s working the curtains. When the lead dancer, Katrina, comes offstage, Hannibal whispers “Sasha sends his regards, he’ll see you soon.” She runs off, and some Russian State Ballet guys wander around frantically looking for her. Yep, the team is helping her defect. Face escorts Katrina to a waiting limo; when the Russian guys come outside and try to follow, Hannibal says “Nyet, comrades!” and he and Murdock hold the guys at gunpoint. “Welcome to freedom!” Murdock tells this Katrina in the limo. The Russian guys start up a car chase, but the team’s limo drives under some kind of flatbed truck, though “under” is probably too kind a word, since it tears off the top of their car.

B.A. shakes his fist
Ten means TOTAL PAIN

They ditch the broken limo and head back to a hotel, where the awesome van is waiting. Katrina says the chase was kind of fun. “It was like James Bond, no?” Murdock agrees, giving the mission a nine out of ten on the “Murdock Scale of Entertainment.” B.A. is miffed: only a nine? “Lemme see you drive like that!” Murdock explains he never gives a ten, because no mission is perfect. So B.A. raises his fist and shouts “This is a ten on B.A.’s scale. Ten being TOTAL PAIN!” Hannibal notes they’re all going to settle in at the hotel for a few days, to keep the Soviets off their tails. Hopefully they’ll be able to avoid any instances of TOTAL PAIN!

Face is taking the first watch; he passes the time by crumpling up pieces of paper and playing waste-basketball. Katrina, sensing the boredom in the room, says “How you say… take off all your clothing?” She goes off to take a bath and reminds Face that “when I return, you wear nothing, no?” But when she heads for the bathroom, it’s not to the tub; she ducks out the window and finds the pay phone.

Dmitri meets the team
“Please, just tell us you’re not with Yakov Smirnoff”

We don’t see who she calls, but when night falls a severe looking dude busts into the room and tries to take Face by surprise. No luck: Face pulls a gun on him, followed by the rest of the team. But wait! They know the guy? “Dmitri Shastovich, huh? Right here in our living room?” “What can I say, it’s been very slow for me since Vietnam,” Dmitri says. B.A. is disgusted by the Soviet agent – “He can out-talk Murdock” – but Dmitri says he’s got important info: one of his countrymen is planning an act of terror in the U.S., in the hopes of starting World War III. Nuclear war, even. “I have been sent by my government to stop this madman… on behalf of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics… would like to hire A-Team.” What the?

Dmitri explains: a renegade Soviet colonel drew up a plan to attack the U.S. directly, but the government said no. He started working on the plan anyway. Ivan “the Terrible” Padavich is the rogue colonel. Hannibal recalls Ivan destroying a village in Vietnam: “He’s not a soldier, he’s a butcher.” B.A.: “I don’t want to work for this sucka, but I hate Padavich even more.” Murdock asks the key question: How is Ivan going to start the war? Dmitri: “By stealing Abraxas.” ABRAXAS?

Abraxas title screen

No, in this case Abraxas is not a sci-fi movie starring Jesse “The Body” Ventura. It’s “a satellite that can destroy 80 percent of Russian missiles.” Dmitri says the Soviets don’t know much about the system, but they know it’ll be moved in the next two days, which is why Ivan is on the move now. Because it’s so secret, this also means that Ivan has somebody on the inside giving him secret info. Dmitri says he’s on deep cover and not supposed to be in the U.S., so he can’t help with more details, but suggests they go to the Soviet embassy for help. (Groans all around.) “Then we are on the same side?” Dmitri asks. “For now,” Hannibal says.

Hannibal, Murdock and Face, renowned hang gliding team
If you have a hang glider, if no one else can help, and if you can find them…

Dmitri gives them a blueprint of the embassy; Hannibal scopes it out and his eyes land on the infirmary. “How ya feeling, Murdock?” he asks. Murdock groans, but the next morning he’s up in a hang glider, and landing painfully on the embassy grounds. (Embassies are usually in Washington, not L.A…. maybe this is the consulate?) A bazillion Soviet guys run out and grab Murdock; meanwhile, Hannibal and Face are in bright orange jumpsuits, and they run past the guard with a story about how they’re part of the hang gliding team too and that their flier might be hurt. The Soviets insist they’ll have to detain Murdock, though, which means Hannibal’s plan is working. They take Murdock to the infirmary, where he babbles about Einstein and “unified theory.” Meanwhile, some Soviet guys take pictures of Hannibal and Face.

Almost immediately Murdock sneaks out of the infirmary and walks, window to window on the outside of the building, to a records room. No one sees him because they’re all attending to Hannibal, who’s yelling about how the State Department will hear about their treatment. “President Reagan is a big supporter of hang gliding,” he warns. “You could be starting an international incident here!” The Soviet guys are all scanning the hang glider to make sure it’s not some kind of surveillance thing. Murdock finds a file on Padavich and sends it to Face and B.A. on the ground by turning it into a paper airplane. Then he climbs out the window, where the Soviet guys finally spot him. They drag him downstairs along with Hannibal and the lead consulate guy, exasperated, says “I never want to see you again!”

The team heads back to the hotel, where Dmitri translates the paper they found on Ivan. It says his contact in the U.S. is someone named Bertka. He also gives Hannibal a secret weapon: a sprayable truth serum, though he warns that if you use too much, it acts like laughing gas. Dmitri is going to bring Katrina back to the Soviet embassy and sort of annul her defection, and he promises she won’t get in any trouble over it.

“The clock’s ticking,” Hannibal reminds everybody, and in fact there is a clock ticking every so often at the bottom of the screen. We cut to The Weekly Worker, which is a not-at-all subtle front for the renegade Soviet guys. Oddly, all the renegade Soviet guys are dressed like Norm Abram from “This Old House,” they even carry around a T-square. Ivan interrupts his team’s own briefing so he can growl at them and point guns at them, and they’re all like “yeah, but when are we going to finish the back addition on this Colonial?” “Tomorrow, you are meeting Pancho,” Ivan tells his contact, Bertka. “He is the key. With him, we can bring this country to its knees.” So a guy named after a coat-like piece of apparel will bring the United States to its knees? Huh. I suppose a man named Pantaloons could conquer the eastern seaboard on his own, too?

Welcome back, General Fulbright. He’s meeting with some secret intelligence guy called Bean who deals with “covert anti-radical procedures.” (No, I will not make any Rowan Atkinson jokes here.) He was the one taking surveillance photos outside the Soviet embassy. “Smith and Peck?” Fulbright says. “It appears the A-Team has jumped sides and gone to work for the Russians.” Fulbright is excited because now they’re traitors. “From here on out it’s shoot to kill.”

Bertka's trippin on laughing gas
Hippie beard, uncontrollable giggling… you can see why this man is a key part of a nuclear terrorism plot.

The team is on the move too. Murdock and Face drop by Bertka’s office pretending to be part of the gas company and claiming there’s a big leak in the building. They evacuate everybody but Bertka, who doesn’t believe them; when he turns around Murdock sprays him with Dmitri’s truth serum. And yes, he used too much, because Bertka starts giggling like crazy, though eventually he explains he’s supposed to “be at the Malibu Ranch Market by 5.” Just as he finishes his instructions Ivan walks in and he starts shooting. But B.A. and Hannibal are outside, and they dive through the ceiling skylight and fire back. Padavich leaves with Bertka.

“We’ve got to get to this guy before Padavich does,” Hannibal says, so the team heads to the market to see who buys oranges and tomatoes in exactly the way Bertka describes. Face sees a dude that looks right and says “I was sent to meet you.” They walk off together. Bertka trails behind, looking for the contact. Face takes the guy to a hidden corner of the market, where he and Hannibal hold him at gunpoint and question him, but he doesn’t answer. “I am deaf, I cannot hear.” Murdock takes his place and Bertka asks if he’s Pancho. Murdock is doing his highbrow art critic persona again, and says “Please, not the name!” They walk off together and B.A. drives up really fast, startling Murdock. “You must be deaf!” he yells, before driving off. Clever warning.

Bean the intelligence dude and Fulbright are sitting outside the Soviet embassy, and they spot Dmitri, who we all know isn’t supposed to be in the U.S. He drops Katrina off at the embassy and then drives away. The Americanskis follow. “Shastovich goes back a long ways with your A-Team,” Bean says.

Murdock is Poncho

Murdock meets Ivan, who skulks around a small suburban house and tests Murdock/Pancho’s hearing by shooting guns. Of course, this is his method of testing pretty much everything, so it’s not very ingenious, but Murdock doesn’t flinch. Ivan says some stuff in Russian to the other guys and then they all head out. Murdock writes something down on paper and drops it in the driveway as they all drive away, that way the team can pick it up; Face does this just a moment after they leave. Murdock’s notes are a phonetic version of Russian, so Hannibal calls Dmitri to translate. Basically everyone is going to Yucca Canyon, which means the team is going there. And because Bean and Fulbright are listening in, they’re going there too.

The Ivan guys park in the woods and grab their guns. Then Ivan says “in an hour Abraxas will be ours, and the world will be a different place.” The team sees them and starts to plan their tactics, but Fulbright gets the jump on them from behind. “You’re not gonna believe this, General,” Hannibal says. The clock comes back on: 17 minutes left.

The team is handcuffed, and Fulbright is congratulating himself on catching the team. Face tries to explain that the Ivan guys are trying to steal Abraxas, but Fulbright’s not interested: “We know you’re working for the Russians.” “We’re not working for the Russians,” Face says. “We’re working with them.” Hannibal also says they have a man on the inside, moving with the rogue Soviets. Fulbright reluctantly agrees to work together, but on one condition: after they get the Soviets, the A-Team has to surrender. Hannibal says fine, knowing full well that he’ll find a way to escape in good time.

Fourteen seconds left on the countdown, and the Ivan guys are using their grenade launchers to knock out the guard positions, and then they blow the door to the installation with some plastic explosive. I don’t mean to be catty, but this is the worst-dressed invasion force ever. No wonder they’re working with a guy called Poncho. Luckily, Hannibal is leading a slightly better dressed force: the team plus Fulbright and Bean and the MPs. They fight their way toward the interior of the Abraxas base, just as Murdock blows his cover by sounding an alarm. Ivan tosses him into the central room and tells Murdock he’ll have to carry Abraxas out of the facility, and makes him drag the thing over to a big forklift. “Oh man,” says Murdock. “I’m in the risk pool already, they’re going to cancel my policy!”

Murdock drives the forklift through a hail of gunfire… and right into a tree! This stuns Ivan and gives Hannibal a chance to do a flying tackle on him and smash his face into the tree. Hannibal is OK; Murdock’s limping a little from the crash but he’s OK. “Tie that creep to a tree and then take off,” Hannibal tells him. Hannibal, Face and B.A. head over to tell Fulbright that they’ve decided not to turn themselves in, but Fulbright’s been expecting this and has MPs and SIA guys surround them. Dang.

Hannibal gives Dmitri a cigar

So they head off in custody of the MPs and they’re not happy about it. “Every time we try to serve our country we end up behind bars,” Face laments. Fulbright’s cheering himself on again: “I don’t understand Decker’s problem trying to run these clowns down.” Oh really? Dmitri and some friends are in the roadway and they shoot up Fulbright’s car. They make the MPs and SIA guys drop their weapons, and then they free the team. “Fifteen minutes, my men and I will surrender our weapons,” Dmitri tells Fulbright. “But if you try to stop A-Team from escaping before them, I will kill you. That is promise.” Hannibal’s laughing his hinder off: “Nice working with you, general!” Dmitri tells the team he’ll get away with this because of diplomatic immunity; he’ll head back to the USSR to somewhere quiet “and write my memoirs.” Hannibal gives him a cigar and calls him “pal.”

I loved the premise; the episode was only slightly not quite as good as the concept. But it wasn’t too far off either; I guess I was hoping for a little more from Murdock’s Pancho character. Still, hang gliding into the Soviet embassy was worth the price of admission.

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