These muffins contain buttermilk and gunpowder. The A-Team is baking exploding muffins. They’re going to bake the villains into submission!
Well now I’m really feeling deja vu: here I am, four days later, stuck once again in Philadelphia airport because of snow showers and air traffic issues. I’ve got at least four more hours here, so I say, A-Team recap marathon! Who’s with me? Yeah!
Mission of Peace
Wild Guess Preview: The A-Team signs on for a very super-secret mission escorting international diplomats around the U.S. and keeping them safe from anti-American terrorists. But due to a hilarious mix-up, they actually end up escorting postpunk band Mission of Burma around the U.S. and keeping them safe from rock critics exhausted by their ultra-loud concerts. (Why do you think they wrong a song called “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver”?)
The Recap: The first thing we learn this week is that there is an actual Mission of Peace; in Spanish it’s “Mission De La Paz”! The old woman giving the tram tour says it’s the site of the “bloodiest battle in American history,” that three thousand white settlers were wiped out by a Native American attack. (I guess they inflated the casualty totals at Antietam?) There are a lot of historic reenactors standing around, too, and they’re all quite elderly. It’s sort of like a mashup of “Bonanza” and “The Golden Girls.” If so, then the cast of “Big Dumb Middle-aged Jackass Thug Roundup” wants in, cause two guys in their 40s start hassling the tour guides; they steal the tram and wreck historic artifacts at a really slow pace. They only stop when another elderly reenactor takes his rifle and shoots out their windshield, which is actually their own windshield so it’s very much a Pyrrhic victory. “I know who sent you,” Nora, the old tour guide, says. “You can tell Ashton we are not selling no matter what you do!” The younger guys feign ignorance at this but warn them to get out of the tourist trade because “you don’t seem to be attracting a very good clientele.” THAT’S NOT FUNNY.
I went down to the Crossroads of Pain, tried to flag a ride, um, of pain
Nora, decides to seek out the A-Team, though she has to go to a bar called The Crossroads of Pain to find them. See, back then you could name a place “The Crossroads of Pain” and it would seem ominous; now everyone would assume it was some kind of store for emo kids to buy “Magic: The Gathering” cards. Nora pulls the “out of order” sign off an arcade game and starts playing “Trivial Matters,” a lie detector game which B.A. is controlling remotely from the awesome van. B.A. thinks she’s being honest, so he and Hannibal go inside and get her. Just in time, cause the bikers in the bar have been watching her play this game, and they decide that the envelope full of Ben Franklins Nora has in her purse is their money. Hannibal walks in and says “Wrong.” “Says who?” the biker asks. B.A. and Hannibal look at each other, and then a whole lot of bodies go flying through the windows. See? Crossroads of pain.
Back to the Hora Linda Senior Citizens Home we go, and the Mission De La Paz crew tells the whole team that a Mr. Ashton told them to “sell out to me or ride in a coffin.” One of the men, Rudy, is played by Larry Tate from “Bewitched”! Rudy’s family has owned the mission’s land for more than a century, but Ashton owns all the surrounding land. “He gets his jollies out of beating up old folks,” says Babette, another old lady (Nedra Volz, the second housekeeper on “Diff’rent Strokes”!) Hannibal’s got a plan, though: phase one is to “give ’em a pop in the eye, let ’em know things are gonna be different.” Babette likes this! Hannibal hands Face a list of supplies: red paint, electric fans, loudspeakers, pillows… it’s a giant summer slumber party concert painting, maybe?
Oh Rudy, don’t take your scams to town
Face heads out to scam this stuff; Rudy gives him a ride, although Face warns him to “stay in the back and watch” so he doesn’t interrupt the scam. Face feeds the clerk a story about how he’s supposed to take some paint over to another store location, but then Rudy walks up with a badge (where’d he get that?) and says he’s an “Environmental Control agent” worried that the red paint is contaminated with lead. “Obviously you chose to ignore the recall that we sent to you last week?” he fibs. “About the poisoned children in El Paso?” The scam works, though Face grumbles about being one-upped. Murdock teases him with a song: “Old Face Man, he ain’t what he used to be, ain’t what he used to be…”
Pathfinder Murdock, riding the wind of destiny.
The old folks are back at work, giving the tourists a demonstration of “the law of the West.” Nora introduces one of the old folks in his Native American getup (it’s Iron Eyes Cody, who among many other roles was the “Crying Indian” in the famous anti-litter TV ad!). Then she introduces “a man who rode the wind of destiny… Daniel David Bowie Boone Murdock, known to his friends as Pathfinder.” Oh. My. God.
I see a henchman and I want to paint him black, uh, I mean, red
Ashton’s thugs pull up in their green pickup and demand that the show shut down, but Murdock steps in and says, in his best Fess Parker voice: “I’m not taking too kindly to the way you’re talking to our womenfolk.” He shoots a big cloud of smoke with his rifle, and then proceeds to kick all four guys’ asses by himself. The colonel and B.A. fire up a hand pump and shoot red paint at the guys, then Face opens up a truck bed, where electric fans are blowing feathers at the dudes. I guess they felt tar and feathers were a little too mean, but paint and feathers works just fine too. The crowd loves it. Hannibal: “And that, ladies and gentlemen, will be the end of this afternoon’s performance.”
Two of the painted, feathered thugs head back to Ashton and complain about how “those geezers were ready to roll over and play dead” until these four guys showed up. “We got a time limit on this thing… They gotta be out of the mission by the end of the month,” Ashton says, though what “this thing” is, we don’t yet know. He says he’s going to talk to Taggart, though we don’t know who Taggart is either. Maybe Ashton is in a time paradox where he’s two scenes ahead of all the other characters. B.A. tails him in the awesome van.
Everyone back at Hora Linda is wondering what Ashton’s trying to do as well. Pathfinder Murdock checked with the assaying office and there aren’t any mineral rights at stake. He’s not interested in historic value, either; Rudy says Ashton promised to bulldoze the mission, and Nora says the feds don’t seem to be interested in granting historic status anyway. Hannibal wants Face and Murdock to go down to the federal building and try to get historic status paperwork in the works. “Mind if I tag along?” Rudy asks. Face, mindful of their red paint adventures, is reluctant, but Murdock… well, not so much disagrees as goes on a tangent. His grandmother, “H. Emma Murdock,” used to tell him stories about how his granddaddy found his way to Texas and, apparently, defended this same mission. “The Murdock clan is being called upon to defend the Mission de la Paz.” And so, “I’m gonna go wash down them horses, and I’m gonna put some jerky in them cases, just in case we have to camp without a fire. Excuse me.” I have no idea what any of that meant, but I love it. Hannibal tells the old timers that Ashton will soon be so nervous that he ends up “running to daddy… and daddy is who we want.”
Wednesday is Senior Day with the A-Team: anyone over 65 who books a commando mission gets 10 percent off!
Daddy is this Taggart fellow, and Ashton is trying to convince him that he’s got everything under control. Taggart says do it quickly, or “they’ll go somewhere else” – so there’s a “they” above daddy? Let’s hope Hannibal has a granddaddy metaphor. B.A. is watching all of this from the van; Hannibal meets up with him, but he’s a little late because Babette’s giving him a ride in her old roadster, and as Babette puts it, “the old lady wouldn’t floor the accelerator.” B.A. shakes his head at Hannibal. “You wanted her to speed?” B.A. says Ashton left a briefcase in his car, so Hannibal asks him to grab the briefcase while he talks to Ashton. “Babette, you stay here,” he says, and gives her a kiss on the cheek. Hannibal’s just a big teddy bear, really. B.A. breaks into Ashton’s car trunk to get the briefcase, but Babette scolds him: “we didn’t hire you to steal!” He grabs the papers in the briefcase and starts reading them.
Hannibal sits himself right down at the table next to Taggart, and introduces himself to Ashton as “the new caretaker at the old mission, and the guy who’s going to make your life miserable.” Ashton gets all puffy and red-faced at this, though not as red-faced as the guys who got paint thrown at ’em. Hannibal just smiles. Ashton tries to yell but Hannibal just punches him.
Face and Murdock, meanwhile, drop by the local federal building (the Prairie Creek, Texas Post Office) and Face is pretending to be the “undersecretary’s secretary to the assistant in charge of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.” With a title like that, he’s almost certainly a background source for Bob Woodward. Pathfinder Murdock tells the clerk that the mission’s historic status documents “must get to the Great White Father in Washington D.C.”, and the clerk says she’ll send their documents out right away. They walk out, and there’s Rudy, starting up a scam of his own. “I work for the Department of the Interior,” he tells the lady, and then he takes the documents back before they can get sent! Face and Murdock sort of go “argh” and walk away.
Everyone heads back to Hora Linda home: Babette tells Nora about the “blatant vandalism” she saw with B.A. Face tells Hannibal that it’s not red tape that’s holding up the landmark application, it’s Rudy. And Murdock lays out another scary proposition: “If Rudy really is working for Ashton, that means he knows who we really are.” Not a second later, we hear General Fulbright’s voice announcing that the home is surrounded. Face, B.A. and Hannibal look around… and then give themselves up? There’s got to be a catch here. Nora pats each of them on the shoulder as they’re led away; then she hugs Babette, who’s pretty upset too. No need to be upset for long, ladies; Pathfinder Murdock is used to rescuing his buddies. One of Fulbright’s men is checking the living room – not sure what he’s looking for, since the team alrady surrendered – and Murdock leaps out of the bearskin rug on the floor, and then knocks him out.
Hopefully they’re not mailing Fulbright to Waldo Jeffers’ house. (Velvet Underground joke.)
Fulbright wants the awesome van brought around so he can “cut it up for scrap.” Oh, dude, you have no idea how mad B.A. is at you now. The van comes around, but Murdock’s at the wheel, in the uniform he stole from that soldier, and so they make yet another escape. Fulbright follows, but Hannibal shoots his engine out and steals his guns. “You’re too dedicated,” Hannibal tells Fulbright. “You should go away for a while.” So they lock him in a wooden crate and mail him to Australia! Ha! “If you find work, send money!” Face says.
Unfortunately Ashton was watching all this go down, and since the team is out of the way, he turns to two guys in ski masks carrying big gasoline cans, and says “let’s go.” The team drives back to Hora Linda’s address, but Hora Linda ain’t there; there’s just a burned out shell and the mission people looking all depressed.
“I should’ve just sold out to Ashton in the first place!” Rudy says. “We can’t win, Hannibal, and we can’t afford to fight anymore.” Hannibal says “you can’t afford not to fight,” and suggests the folks move into Mission de la Paz for the time being. But first, he has a few questions for Rudy: see, in going through Rudy’s wallet, Face found out he’s not Rudy at all but Charles Winston. “The Charles Winston?” he asks. “You’re Charlie the Clip?… I’ve studied every scam you’ve ever done!” Rudy/Charlie says yes, he’s been using a phony name, but he’s not working for Ashton, and he certainly didn’t call Fulbright.
And since he’s busy confessing, he also explains that the reason he stole back those landmark papers is because “the Mission de la Paz doesn’t actually exist…. my daddy opened this place as a social club in 1924.” Still, Rudy needs the team’s help. “These people are my family, and this mission is all they have left,” he says. “This mission gives us a chance to take care of ourselves!” Hannibal points out that even though the mission may be a fiction, there’s a real reason Ashton and Taggart want the land, and they still don’t know what it is. He sends B.A. and Murdock to Taggart’s place to see if they can figure out what their deal is.
Murdock is too upset to help: “I’m a man with no past and a questionable future,” he says. But Rudy encourages him: “If there was no Pathfinder at the first battle for the mission, there certainly will be at the second!” Ok, Murdock is back in. “Come on, B.A.!” he says. “We have legends to begin. Pathfinder rides again!” B.A. is disappointed. “I wish you hadn’t done that,” he tells Rudy.
Murdock and B.A. sneak into Taggart’s place, where they learn he’s a retired Army colonel. They grab the papers just before Taggart comes in, yelling at Ashton about lord knows what. As bosses go, he’s not much of a positive motivator. But he is quick enough to realize when he’s been robbed – not that the van peeling out wasn’t a giveaway – and now he’s mad. “If Hannibal Smith wants a war, I just happen to be in a position to accommodate him.”
The papers tell all: the Army wants to build a new military base on Rudy’s land; Taggart and Ashton wanted to force the oldsters out and then keep all the military dollars for themselves. And that’s what Taggart aims to do right now: he’s back in Army fatigues and has actual, not-retired soldiers pulling up in Jeeps. Ashton doesn’t like the chutzpah: “Are you planning on giving away the whole scam?” But Taggart tells him to hush and they head to the mission.
Pathfinder Murdock is watching, and warns Hannibal that the enemy is on its way. They only have an hour to prepare, and only a few guns they stole from Fulbright, so Hannibal radios back to Pathfinder: “we’re gonna need the calvary on this one.” Time for an old-timey historical reenactment montage! They grab just about everything in the mission, from the props they use in the daily shows to… eggs and flour? They’re going to bake Ashton into submission! If you can’t armor coat your vehicle, you can at least bread and pan fry it. And there’s more: look at this tasty concoction:
These muffins contain buttermilk and gunpowder. The A-Team is baking exploding muffins. Nora notes that Hannibal is standing right on the spot where Jonathan Moultree, the lead hero of the mission story, was shot and killed with an arrow. Apparently Rudy didn’t get around to telling her that the whole mission story is only a story. Hannibal doesn’t feel this is the time to mess with Texas, though, so he doesn’t say anything.
Pathfinder sure is trying to bring in the calvary; he opens up the wooden crate and lets Fulbright and his men out! “I bear a message from the besieged forces at Mission de la Paz,” which includes documents outlining Taggart’s scheme and a request that he aid Hannibal ASAP. After checking out the documents, Fulbright concurs, and they drive over to the mission, only Pathfinder Murdock is already gone. “My place is in the heat of battle,” he says.
Showdown time. Taggart arrives, but Hannibal’s in no mood to take to “a money-hungry slimeball.” And with that, B.A. launches the first cannon full of exploding muffins, Face sets loose his electric fans on buckets of flour to fog everybody up, and Hannibal just shoots and shoots. Face also tackles two guys who are covered in flour, and then sautes them for about five minutes over medium heat. Ashton and his doughy, non-Army contingent flee the battle; Hannibal yells “Sore losers at 10 o’clock!” and B.A. uses more exploding muffins to blow up their truck.
At this point the team is running out of supplies, and they still have Taggart’s crew in the fray. Luckily, Pathfinder Murdock arrives, as does Fulbright, who marches right up to Taggart and arrests him, for treason, no less! “By the way,” he adds, “find out if the A-Team is hanging around here somewhere.” They’re not, of course; the awesome van makes its getaway and Fulbright is foiled again.
The Chief promises to Keep the Awesome Van Beautiful
And here’s one last twist: some Interior Department guy is proclaiming that the mission was historic after all; it was owned by Sam Houston before the Alamo, or something, and now it’s a national monument. Nora, Babette and Rudy are very grateful to the team, though Babette warns B.A., wagging her finger, “the next time you feel like breaking into a car, it just might not be a little old lady that sneaks up on you!” Murdock has a surprise: he’s named his horse, Rosie, the newest member of the A-Team. “I couldn’t really be Pathfinder without a horse,” he says. Rudy notes that Rosie is the Chief’s horse, but Murdock says it’s ok, “We traded.” Traded what? Aha, the Chief drives by in the awesome van, waving “Hi team!” B.A. is livid, but Murdock says, “You’re the one who said we ought to give back the Indians everything we took from them, so I thought I’d get the ball rolling with your van!” Great ending.
This one started out a little slow, and I was enjoying it mostly because I’m a softy for plots where old people fight back against whippersnappers (I cried at the end of “Batteries Not Included”). But I actually did end up liking the episode on its own merits; it got better and better. And the old folks really were top-notch; David White is wonderful, as are the rest of the guest stars. If you look at IMDB, you can see this was, for many of these folks, their last or next to last role. Covering villains in flour and blowing up their Jeeps is a pretty good way to go out.