In which we battle against The Alternate Team and hope for a leap out of trouble.
There’s bad news in town when a vigilante SWAT team starts taking on hits for hire. When one man, Inspector Ed Maloney, threatens to expose them to the Chief of Police, they threaten the safety of his wife and daughter. Left with no option, he decides to hire the A-Team.
As Ed waits in a bar, we find Hannibal in character as a drunk Irishman (I think, I’m genuinely not sure what he’s going for with the accent). He’s clearly been there before as the bartender tells him to leave, but the kindly Inspector offers to buy him a drink. It’s enough for Hannibal, as he drops the accent and reveals his identity.
Taking Ed into the back to meet BA and Face (who aren’t too sure about taking on a cop as a client), we learn Mr Lee has also vetted the client. The team make it clear they won’t kill the vigilantes, but Ed reassures them he just wants evidence to end their killing spree. Mission accepted, only Hannibal is excited at the prospect of going up against themselves.
The first plan of action is to bug the SWAT team. Face and Amy pose as exterminators, planting cockroaches in the locker room, to get access to the team’s uniforms. Sewing on some button-sized microphones from BA, Amy notes it’s rather sexist to bring her along just for the needlework.
Now able to listen in on the vigilantes, Hannibal has Face break Murdock out with a case of tuberculosis. It’s just in time as they overhear the next target and BA races across town to intercept. With Hannibal in disguise as the mark, he takes the hit in a bulletproof vest and they turn the tables on two of the team – including Dean Stockwell, later of Quantum Leap fame. They’re released to tell their boss, Captain Stark, their reign is over.
Hannibal’s plan revolves around winding up the Captain until he breaks, apparently similar to one that didn’t work very well in Vietnam. BA complains “that was a terrible plan” nut Hannibal is sure they’ve “worked out the kinks”.
First, he calls the team in a café, repeating some of their private conversation and even calling the Captain a “scuzzball” for good measure. He’s a little riled and the team begin to feel under surveillance. Next, he interrupts the Captain with his girlfriend by sending Murdock to deliver flowers then calling to taunt him again and arrange a meeting for that night.
Though the SWATs try to outflank the A-Team, the bugs once again help and they’re easily disarmed. Hannibal delivers a final ultimatum, give themselves up or face a death sentence. For some reason, the whole team dresses in half black and half camouflage for this scene, with face paint too. You’d think this would make sense at night, but for a group that’s wanted by the military and owns the most recognisable van in the city, discretion seems a little out of character. Perhaps it’s just because Hannibal looks boss in a uniform.
It’s the last time the A-Team has the edge as the SWATs find and destroy the bugs the next morning. Dean Stockwell is getting jittery, but the Captain reminds him that no-one leaves until they all do. Dean says it’s cool and heads off to drive his motorbike to chillax. He doesn’t get far as Amy’s outside posing as a damsel in distress with car troubles (another role for the feminist in her).
Back at what I assume is Dean Stockwell’s apartment, he finds the A-Team waiting to not only cockblock him but also blackmail him into retrieving evidence of the killings. Hilariously, we get the shortest of smiles from BA as the team each take photos of Dean with them – which of course they’ll send to Captain Stark if he refuses. There’s no leaping out of this one (yes, I know he didn’t do the leaping and so that doesn’t make sense).
The team meet their unwilling ally at an abandoned (or at least after hours) amusement park where he hands Face the evidence. The SWAT are on to the plan though, having bugged Dean Stockwell assuming he was going to betray them.
Thankfully, Hannibal is on to them being on to the plan. Posing as a statue of a cowboy, he battles Captain Stark as the rest of the team fight one v one with the A-Team naturally winning all three. Best of the bunch is BA who jumps on an escaping car, punches through the windscreen and flips it onto its side. The two leaders manage to find themselves hanging from an incredibly slow-moving cable car until Stark falls and Hannibal climbs to safety to light a cigar.
With the bad guys caught and the case wrapped up, Hannibal and Face deduct their expenses and return the rest of the money the Inspector gave them. The team make their getaway as an unseen Col Lynch catches up to them and we freeze on Amy’s wry smile saying they do it all “for the jazz”.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes, three onscreen and one mention of Mr Lee. He’s a drunk Irishman at a bar, gets shot playing one of the SWAT team’s victims and then dresses up as a cowboy in all black. At least one of these was just because it looked mega cool.
Does BA get on a plane?
No, no need for one this time.
Should someone be dead?
For the first time, probably not. The closest is the car that tips onto its side but it seems like it would just injure the driver on this occasion.
There’s a little dip in quality with A Small and Deadly War being the weakest of the season so far. That’s a shame because the premise is great, the A-Team going up against a version of themselves without the morals. Sadly, it’s not capitalised on fully.
Stark is ok but comes across easily frustrated and petulant, all too often on the back foot and never truly turning the tables on the A-Team. It’s the same with Dean Stockwell’s character, he should have taken longer to get spooked and betray the team. Even when he does, we see in the next scene that he’s been bugged so there’s no tension of him trying to steal the evidence from under Stark’s nose.
Perhaps this would have worked better with more time to develop over a two-part episode. As it stands, it’s still a good entry with the team on great form and some real humour from Amy sending up her own role in the team. Long may the hot steak continue.
Let me know what you think by joining the conversation on Twitter.