Murdock is in a straightjacket, and on a unicycle. That he stole from a mime. Sometimes I just want to kiss this show.

So far I haven’t gotten many dirty looks about spending Christmas Eve writing A-Team recaps. But that’s because I haven’t told anybody yet. And by reading this, you’re agreeing to a special end-user license in which you promise not to give me any dirty looks because I’m spending Christmas Eve writing A-Team recaps. I’m glad we were able to sort this out so easily. Thanks so much.

Firing Line

Wild Guess Preview: The show is really getting into this whole arrest-and-trial storyline; they hired William F. Buckley to host a fictional version of his real show, “Firing Line,” and he and Noam Chomsky, Walker Percy and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney debate the team’s trial and whether or not they actually killed Colonel Morrison. Seriously, they hired the prime minister to debate the A-Team!

The Recap: The news reporter lady from the last episode is back, telling us that the end of the A-Team trial could “mark the end of a bygone era, the Vietnam legacy of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.” That may be overstating things a bit. Stockwell and Carla are watching this on TV and exchanging meaningful glances; when the reporter says the team is about to be executed, Stockwell says “Perfect.” What a creep.

A graphic tells us it’s “Friday, 8:00 AM,” and some soldiers are marching in formation; looks like they’re the firing squad. They bring out Hannibal, Face and B.A., and tie them up to wooden posts; before the soldiers set up for their shots, the lead guy asks if they have any last requests. Face gets a funny look in his eye, and then imagines a woman in a bikini coming up to him with a big bottle of champagne. The soldiers start their preparations anyway, and Face freaks: “What’s the point of a last request if you don’t get it?!?” He turns to Hannibal for help, but Hannibal’s in an Aquamaniac costume, saying “See you in the swamp, Lieutenant!” The head soldier yells “fire!”… and then Face wakes up.

Murdock in a straightjacket and in a manhole
The rescue is so important Murdock is even willing to interrupt the Village People.

Two orderlies at the VA hospital notice that there’s only a newspaper where a Murdock is supposed to be. They even put the guy in restraints, but H.M. was so bent out of shape he wouldn’t be denied- in fact, Murdock is running like crazy in a straightjacket; he sort of bumps some of the whitecoats and then hits the streets of L.A. At one point Murdock runs past a mime on a unicycle. He stops, steals the unicycle and rides away. That’s right, Murdock is in a straightjacket and on a unicycle. That he stole from a mime. Sometimes I just want to kiss this show, it’s so amazing.

Now it’s “Friday, 12 pm,” and Murdock is out of his straightjacket and walking around the big city. Two guys are in a car, watching him; they radio back to somewhere that “the fox is in the henhouse.” That henhouse would be Frankie’s apartment, which is notable only because it has a really elaborate doorbell that includes fake gunfire and a recorded voice referencing the CIA and telling visitors to “empty your pockets.” “I gotta help my guys,” Murdock tells him, and he figures time is running short. Frankie’s game to help, but when they leave those two guys are at the door to take them away at gunpoint. Fortunately, Murdock remembers there’s a skateboard on the stairs, and he uses it to knock one of the suit guys down the stairs and start the getaway. Frankie has a little more trouble with a Gary Bauer-looking guy who keeps doing ninja kicks. He ends up leading the guy into the elevator shaft… which has no elevator. Nice.

It’s “Friday 6:35 pm,” which means time is running short for Frankie and Murdock to save the others, but they’re just in time to catch tonight’s Atlanta baseball game on TBS. Our two guys bust into Stockwell’s plane and drop off one of his agents; the other, Murdock says, “will check in once he checks out of County Emergency.” Murdock is once again deadly serious and more than a little scary; he tells Stockwell they have something in common: “we both want the A-Team alive and well.” He says he knows Stockwell has been pulling the strings all along, and because of that, “you are going to help me spring my friends.”

Stockwell sort of nods, and Carla, now in grey vertical stripes, hands Murdock a briefing folder and starts a video. The team is being held on Barrier Island, in a very fortified compound. “They’ll be expecting you,” Stockwell says. Murdock wants Stockwell to call in some favors to help with the rescue, but Stockwell says he’s done all he’s gonna do, so “don’t get greedy.” This makes Murdock mad, but Stockwell hits a button which puts up a glass shield between them and starts up a knockout gas, which knocks Murdock and Frankie out cold. Stockwell tells Carla to contact Barrier Island and tell them he’s going to visit “the prisoners” in two hours. Stockwell’s both enabling and confounding the rescue here; maybe he’s Two-Face from the Batman universe?

Frankie is in a dumpster with no pants.
Frankie Santana, Pantsless Drifter

“Saturday, 6:10 am.” The team faces the firing squad in less than two hours. Murdock and Frankie are on or near a dumpster, and they have pressing concerns of their own: “Where are my pants?” Frankie shouts. He ends up borrowing some from a random drifter nearby, but luckily they do have a list of everyone who has clearance to be on Barrier Island that day.

Face and Hannibal try to escape
Hannibal and Face see breakfast as a way to escape. Me, I just think “Wow, hash browns!” Which is why I’ll never be a commando.

“Saturday, 6:15 am.” Some soldiers bring breakfast for the team, but only B.A. and Face seem to be there. “Smith?” Face says. “He moved to better accommodations.” Hannibal’s actually under Face; when the guards start searching the room, he sneaks up from behind and clobbers the guy, taking his gun. Face kicks the other one, they undo their handcuffs and soon they’re in the main courtyard area, in a gun battle with, well, a lot of soldiers. Somehow Hannibal got hold of some grenades; he starts chucking them and stuff starts blowing up, just like old times. They make it out of the base and onto the beach, but they trip over Burt Lancaster… no, actually Face takes a bullet in the leg and B.A. has to carry him away. Oh wait, this is all Hannibal’s daydream. Crud.

Murdock and Frankie are trying to figure out how to stop the executions when they’re in parts unknown without money, guns or, in Frankie’s case, pants. They spot a priest getting into a car. Murdock says “Bless me Father,” Murdock tells him, “for I am about to sin.”

“Saturday, 6:45 am,” and Stockwell is on Barrier Island to meet with the team. “I have a proposition for you,” he says, and Hannibal’s irritated: “The way other investments that he’s suggested have turned out, how could we refuse?” he says, sarastically. But they realize they have nowhere to go anyway, so why not hear him out. “What I’m offering,” Stockwell says, “is an alliance.” He says that, were they to somehow escape, they’d be hunted ten times more than ever before, and that’s not something even the A-Team could evade for long. “I can offer you an out”: complete a series of specified missions, and get a full pardon. Face realizes the catch; these are suicide missions. “Not all,” Stockwell says. Oh, that makes it better. Hannibal asks “how long do we have to let you know, before you get us out?” Get us out? “That’s not part of the deal,” Stockwell says. “Contact me upon your successful evasion of your current situation.” He leaves.

So how is the team going to escape on their own? Well, Hannibal says, we’ve always got Murdock. B.A.: “MURDOCK!?!” And with that, B.A. has his daydream about the firing squad, in which Murdock flies in on a chopter to take the team away. Hannibal and Face grab the legs of the craft, but before B.A. can get in the chopter, Murdock makes him promise all sorts of stuff, like “promise never to call me ‘fool’ again.” He draws the line at being forced to share an apartment with Murdock; he walks back to the wooden post and tells the soldiers to “shoot!” What a hilarious daydream.

“Saturday, 7:10 am.” Face is having a real crisis about his last meal: “I’m wondering if maybe I should have something I really love, or maybe it’d be better to have something I’ve never tried before.” B.A. says have both, because “I ain’t having no last meal!” Then… Murdock arrives! He’s disguised as the priest set to give their last rites in his priest costume, but he immediately starts to organize a rescue. Oh, scratch that, the soldiers catch him and tell him to “keep your hands away from your body and don’t move.” Murdock: “Then how do I get my hands away from my body?”

Frankie dressed as a priest
I think Tony Orlando’s gonna need that mustache when you’re done, Frankie

“Saturday, 7:30 am.” Murdock’s being led away by soldiers, just as the real priest is being led in to see the team. No, it’s Frankie, with a comically bad mustache. “I understand you are a troubled man,” he tells Murdock. “I forgive you.” Then he goes to see the team, handing Hannibal a blood packet and some other stuff; they figured Murdock would be noticed, but not him. “Even if this doesn’t work,” Hannibal says, “thanks.” “It’ll work,” Frankie replies, “my son.”

“Saturday, 7:50 am.” Frankie walks over to the room where a sergeant is loading the guns to be used in the firing squad. He tricks the guy into walking away, and then changes out all the bullets to blanks he smuggled in. Probably all of them, anyway. “Which’ll sound better?” he asks Murdock as they ride back on the boat. “I think, or I hope?”

The team faces a firing squad
“Send my awesome van to mother”

“Saturday, 8:00 am.” Time to die. The captain reads the charges as the team members are blindfolded. And then they shoot… and the guys fall over. Aaagh.

The team wakes up after being 'killed'
Yeah, if I faked my own death and saw Stockwell, I’d freak too

A boat brings three body bags to the coast. And some guys are checking the bodies out; apparently they took some kind of drug to fool the doctors into thinking they’d actually died. Face comes to, and Stockwell’s there, so he thinks he’s actually died and gone to hell, or “downstairs” as he calls it. And there’s Murdock and Frankie with the awesome van! Murdock gives each of the guys a big hug, that’s so sweet!

Stockwell wants to show them their new home, in “the rolling green hills of Virginia.” Frankie promises to visit them regularly, but Stockwell says “you’re joining them, Mr. Santana.” Stockwell says that’s not a good idea now that “you’re on the ten most wanted list” for helping three convicted murderers escape. Wait, I thought everyone thought the team was dead? Oh, Stockwell says it’s only a matter of time before the military realizes there aren’t any bodies and that the priest was the one who helped the team with another crazy escape. “It’ll just be for a little while, Frankie,” Hannibal says, to cheer him up, and Stockwell adds that he’ll take care of Frankie’s dad while he’s away. Murdock makes everyone feel back to normal by peppering B.A. with questions about “the light” he saw when he was dead. B.A. says he wasn’t really dead, and was never touched by “the light.” “You’re the one who’s touched, fool!” “You promised never to call me that,” Murdock says. Wait, that was from B.A.’s daydream; “How’d you know about that?” B.A. asks. Murdock just laughs.

Hannibal walks with Stockwell, explaining that they should’ve just kept B.A. knocked out a little longer so they could get him on a plane to Virginia. Stockwell hands him a tranquilizer gun, which he says should work nicely. Face is telling Frankie that being on the most wanted list isn’t that bad. Frankie says “you were almost executed!” Face: “Well, you have your good days and your bad days.” Hannibal doesn’t really want to have a drink with Stockwell, but he says “I can be very accommodating… if you do things my way.” Hannibal’s tired of Stockwell’s way already, though; “this whole nightmare” – from going after Curtis to getting caught and tried and almost executed – was Stockwell’s doing, and now that Curtis has been conveniently murdered, they can’t ever get cleared. Stockwell says “my best guess scenario is that your Captain Josh Curtis murdered Morrison,” possibly because he was already smuggling guns and Morrison found out. Curtis was probably murdered, Stockwell says, because he missed his scheduled arms shipment in California by being on the hijacked plane in Spain. After all, he was sitting with a known weapons buyer, Ramon, who, Stockwell says, is completing their weapons deal right now. “That explains everything,” Hannibal says, “from your point of view.” He uses the tranquilizer gun on Stockwell, who falls back into his limo. It felt really good to see that. The team heads out to catch Ramon and find out what really happened to Curtis.

Ramon is smuggling guns, as expected, but then the awesome van drives up, firing all sorts of un-smuggled guns. Hannibal blasts one car to pieces and shoots the tires out on the other, then grabs Ramon by the necktie and asks him about Curtis – “you’ve got until I light my cigar to answer.” Ramon confesses to killing the guy, but he can’t believe the A-Team is roughing him up. “I read you were killed. You were killed this morning!” Hannibal smiles: “Well, we’re back.”

And now we move to beautiful Langley, Virginia. Stockwell shows the team around their new place; it’s nice, Hannibal says, but there’s a few problems: “one-way mirrors, hidden cameras, listening devices… the joint is loaded.” “We don’t like this place,” B.A. adds. “It’s just like jail.” “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Stockwell says, looking at Carla, who’s looking resplendent in rose pink. Face and Frankie can’t help but agree. Hannibal does add, though, that Stockwell won’t really be able to keep them in the place, since the security is “full of holes.” “Such as?” Stockwell asks. Hannibal: “Wait and see.”

Murdock comes to Langley, Virginia
Langley, Virginia is officially on a collision course with wackiness.

But that’s not the only surprise in store: who should show up at the door but H.M. Murdock! “I’m officially released!” he says. “I’m no longer insane. I got my papers and everything.” B.A. isn’t so sure about this: “I may be glad to see you, but you’re still crazy.” Murdock isn’t staying with the rest of the team; he has his own place and a new job… “working for the pound. I’m scooping up… stray dogs!” And he opens the sliding door and like two dozen dogs run into the living room. The team is laughing; even Stockwell’s a bit amused. “Holes in security indeed.”

Ok, getting a little better. Frankie is growing on me; I still can’t figure out the purpose of a fifth character, but he’s got good on-screen chemistry with Murdock. Maybe it would’ve made sense to finish the Stockwell storyline here and then go on to something different. Or not. So far this season has been a real showcase for Murdock, though, and that’s never a bad thing.

Previous episode: Season 5, Episode 2 – Trial By Fire | Next episode: Season 5, Episode 4 – Quarterback Sneak