In which we set sail for Mexico but end up travelling by truck.
The episode begins with Sgt. Tackleberry from Police Academy seemingly undercover as a human trafficker taking Mexicans to LA. They leave a sick woman at their compound and when a tire bursts on the drive, her daughter manages to escape into the city. The girl, Maria, meets BA who is playing a game of baseball with some local kids. Oddly he lifts her up and gives her a hug almost immediately – simpler times.
Over at the marina, Marla Heasley appears as Cherise (not yet future team member Tawnia Baker) asking Face for some help with her yacht. He’s busy meeting the team though where BA insists they are taking the case – no-one argues with him.
The first stop is at a sweatshop called Presley Casuals, who’s logo Maria saw on the side of the trafficking truck (seems like a weird advertising strategy). The team threaten the owner who says he has no idea who the girl’s mother is or where she might be. A fight breaks out which the team easily win and force the owner to admit they need to find a man called Prince in Tijuana.
The sweatshop scene has a great line from Murdock when’s he’s asked his size: “my size is the amount of space I take up. Thanks for asking.”
Leaving Maria with Cherise for some reason, the team sail to Tijuana with both Face and BA falling seasick while Hannibal promises he has a plan but “it’s a secret.” The first stage seems to be Hannibal in disguise as a Mexican called Sergio who needs Prince’s help to get across the border to the US. It’s a great example of how well George Peppard played characters – although we can see it’s Hannibal, his body language and demeanour change so much that we can understand why he fools people.
When Prince calls in the deal, the team tap the wire (literally, it was the 1980s) and find out his man on the inside is a border patrol agent called Taggart. Taggart is played by George Ging who was also Captain Stark in the season one episode A Small and Deadly War.
Hannibal is thrown into the back of the Presley Casuals truck, but the team’s borrowed van breaks down and they lose track of him. At the border compound where the villains hold the immigrants until they’re needed, Hannibal steals a gun and shouts for the others to show themselves. When no-one arrives, he’s dragged into a small tin shed under the burning sun as punishment.
BA fixes the van but the team have no idea where Hannibal is. Amy goes into Prince’s bar to flirt with him while Face draws his bodyguards outside. She does a good job with some weird lines about liking ducks lips and putting on a trashy accent. Prince is held at gunpoint and told that he’ll be guiding them to the compound, as soon as they’ve made some changes to his car.
Unable to break Hannibal, Taggart throws him in with the other prisoners and tells his Tackleberry to drop him out of the truck later so there’s “no mess”. The Colonel learns that Maria’s mother is close to death in one of the nearby buildings. He assures them that his friends will soon show up to help.
They are indeed on their way, Murdock scamming a helicopter and the others inside a borrowed truck. In an amazing stunt, the truck bursts through the compound gates and then the team burst out of the truck inside Prince’s now armour-plated car. Face pops out of the roof and begins throwing hub caps filled with dynamite like frisbees.
During the chaos, Hannibal knocks Taggart out and BA stops Price escaping with one hand – asking him if he has “any more stupid ideas”. Murdock an Amy fly Maria’s mother to hospital where she recovers and is allowed to stay in the US.
Back at the yacht, Cherise and the girls serve sandwiches (including a carrot one which Hannibal ends up with) while the team relaxes. Amy learns that Taggart and Prince have been jailed, while Hannibal looks on with his arm around one of the girls – although typically face has two for himself.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes. He becomes a Mexican trying to sneak into the US.
Does BA get on a plane?
No, the team take the yacht to Tijuana.
Should someone be dead?
Yes, there’s far too much dynamite flung around at the end for every villain to survive.
Bad Time on the Border is a brilliant episode of The A-Team. There’s a real emotional core to the story from the moment we first meet Maria, lost and alone in LA and trying to find someone to help her dying mother. Luckily, we know BA never lets a child down.
This time, the team have two villains to face – a Mexican crime boss and a corrupt border patrol agent. While neither is a top tier foe, they both set a challenge and make an impact on the team, even capturing Hannibal for a period. It’s also fun to see the team split up when this happens and find ways to survive on their wits when the plan doesn’t come together.
Let me know what you think by joining the conversation on Twitter.