In which we learn that a good plan A, needs a better plan B… and sometimes a plan C.
In the office of one Mr Teasdale, the old man takes a phone call from his daughter’s kidnappers – they want $500,000 for her safe release. Flicking through files on each member of the A-Team, Teasdale agrees to send the ransom by taxi driver.
Of course, the cabbie is Hannibal in disguise, and he delivers the money to a masked man out in the middle of nowhere. The man takes Hannibal’s gun and tells him to wait, taking the briefcase of cash to the rest of his gang. They count the contents and sweep it for bugs, then send a man back to dispatch the driver for good.
Parked in the van nearby, the team reveal the bug was in the gun all along as they have a fix on the kidnappers. Hearing a gunshot, Face, BA and Murdock run into action only to find Hannibal survived the shooting with his bulletproof vest, knocked his attacker out and is now disguised as one of the kidnappers. The team set off to track down the hideout by following the bug’s signal.
Once inside the gang’s compound, Hannibal soon finds Teasdale’s daughter and, despite some resistance, manages to get her out of her cell. Before escaping, he interrupts the gang leader and his girl to recover the briefcase of cash. At that moment, the daughter makes a run for it only to run into Face and Murdock who have fought their way in. Hannibal knocks her out (thankfully offscreen) and the team drive away in the van.
Two jeeps take chase but both are flipped into the air and out of action by some well-timed grenades. They do manage to hit the gas tank though and the team are forced to pull off the road before long. As they consider their next move, Teasdale’s daughter pulls a gun on Hannibal and demands to be taken back. Luckily, it’s the bug and not a real gun so she’s quickly disarmed.
Though Murdock diagnoses Stockholm Syndrome, Jennifer explains she was already dating one of the kidnappers, Marcus, who got in over his head and was tricked into inviting her out to the compound. She wants the team to go back and rescue him too. The team aren’t convinced, but a call to Mr Teasdale, who’s more concerned about the lost money they now owe him than pleased his daughter is safe changes their minds.
Two of the kidnappers soon find the van’s tracks but are ambushed by the team and forced to helped them back into the compound. Inside, the leader is planning their next act of terrorism, but his meeting is interrupted by Face, Murdock and Hannibal who grab Marcus and hold the rest at gunpoint.
Before they tie up the terrorists, BA crashed through the window in a fight with another giant of a man. This gives the bad guys a chance to recover and the A-Team are forced to make another escape. Taking a raft from a storeroom, the team scale down the nearby cliffs with Hannibal providing cover from above. George Peppard’s stunt double then performs an impressive dive from the clifftop into the sea. Unfortunately, the raft is riddled with bullets and the team end up having to walk rather than float away.
With Jennifer and Marcus rescued, the team breathes a sigh of relief. It’s short-lived though as Marcus reveals the gang plans to blow up a dam – and there’s no time to wait for the police.
The third mission begins with Hannibal in disguise once more, this time as a security guard on the dam. Again, he gets shot, but again he’s wearing his bulletproof vest. Inside the structure, Murdock takes out two terrorists then helps Face deals with two more. The team then surround the remaining members and pin them down with their guns.
It’s too late to stop the bomb though, which has already begun a 90-second countdown. Hannibal and BA grab the case and run through the dam to throw it over safely into the water with only a few seconds to spare. Three out of three missions completed.
Back at Mr Teasdale’s office, he’s adamant that Jennifer won’t see Marcus again as he’ll cut her off if she does. The team apologise for losing the money, but on hearing Decker’s sirens closing in tell the old man that he won’t get the chance to hire them twice. On their way to the van, the team wonder when Teasdale will realise they gave the money (minus a small fee) to Jennifer.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes – three. First, he’s a cabbie delivering ransom money, then instinctively takes the place of a terrorist in all black, and finally a doomed security guard at the dam.
Does BA get on a plane?
Should someone be dead?
Yes, another two jeeps flip over after hitting grenades. The jeeps have no roofs and everyone knows terrorists don’t wear seatbelts.
Harder Than It Looks is one of the funniest episodes of the A-Team, not due to any of the characters this time but the structure of the story. Playing with the audience’s expectations, the first mission is a standard ‘rescue my daughter’, which then spirals into ‘rescue my kidnapper’ and finally ‘defuse a bomb’.
Each mission ends with a more dangerous one beginning, and it’s huge credit to the writers that each feels like a fully formed assault even with all three in one episode. You get the feeling that everyone was having fun, not just in playing out the missions but in finding new ways to keep the formula fresh and the audience surprised.