In which we find that steel might be the real deal, but gold shines brighter.
We’re in for a treat with this episode, around halfway through the second season of the A-Team as it’s time to switch to the best opening credits, featuring Face double-taking at a passing Cylon. That’s because Amy has now left the team, confusingly without any mention as her final episode was meant to be When You Comin’ Back Range Rider?
After the credits, we open on our helpless underdogs Mickey and his niece Randy upset because a local rival, Denham, is trying to shut down their demolition business. One of their cabins explodes in front of them, destroying their payroll for the week. Denham appears alongside a few thugs to let them know they’ll be inside next time.
The two take a trip on the Universal Studios Tour, mentioning they’ve already met Mr Lee and a wino in an alley (interestingly, a character not referenced since the pilot episode). They meet Hannibal in a full Aquamaniac suit who sends them to a empty tram to meet with BA and Face. It’s here where the Cylon appears, next to Frankenstein and Jaws from the universal back-catalogue. For a final bit of Universal Studios trivia, the villainous Carl Denham is named after the film maker who captures King Kong.
Mickey explains that Denham has a near monopoly on demolition business in the city and is trying to shut down the only job that’s not his. Denham has a vendetta against Mickey as he reported him to the authorities for using cheap materials, but he managed to buy his way out of the charges. Hannibal agrees to take on the case, sending Face to break out Murdock.
Back at the demolition site, Denham’s men are offering jobs to Mickey’s workers as they know he can’t pay them. BA, wearing an incredible gold hard hat for the rest of the episode, interrupts and a fight breaks out. Just at that moment Face and Murdock arrive, with Face quipping that it’s “almost predictable by now”. The team win the fight and send Denham’s men packing in a wheelbarrow.
Over at his office, it seems that Denham isn’t the top of the villainous tree as we meet a sharp-suited man who is insistent that the building Mickey’s working on can’t be torn down. Hannibal, half-heartedly disguised as demolition worker in a moustache and lots of denim, is watching from above and orders Face to follow the man. He also spies a food van handing our cash payments to Denham’s workers, adding tax evasion to his crimes.
Hannibal wanders down to the van and holds the vendor at gunpoint, taking a stack of cash from him. He’s immediately spotted and held at gunpoint by one of Denham’s heavies from earlier. Almost as quickly, Murdock roller-skates by and throws a radio into the site which causes an explosion and the two make their escape. There’s a short car chase ending in, of course, the bad guys’ car flipping onto its roof.
Face gets close to his quarry only to realise it’s local mobster Tommy Tillis, or ‘Crazy Tommy T’. He calls Hannibal, wanting to back out but is ordered to continue his mission. The Lieutenant is spotted though and taken to a table with Tillis, who goes through all the business cards in his wallet and accuses him of being a conman. Before he can find out anything further, Tillis gets a call from Denham about Hannibal’s theft and the explosion at the site. Tommy keeps Face prisoner as he goes to meet Denham.
At Denham’s high-rise office, Hannibal, BA and Murdock are outside posing as window cleaners when Tillis arrives. Hannibal, listening in with some kind of stethoscope tool, overhears that the building that’s about to be demolished was Tillis’ old warehouse and the place he and Denham buried his old partner. Not so predictable after all. What began as a classic underdog and bully story has evolved into a fight against organised crime. Thankfully, the Colonel also learns that Face is being held in Tillis’ car in the parking garage.
Face is making is own escape plans, as he sets fire to Tillis’ car by spilling some sherry and dropping a lighter into the liquid. Just as he runs, Tillis and Denham exit the lift but BA screeches into the garage in the van and Face leaps inside. Crazy Tommy T has had enough and calls his boys to go and take out the A-Team.
Although Mickey’s team are back to work, paid in full thanks to Denham’s payroll, Hannibal send them away as he knows Tillis is coming in force. The team montage their way through explosives, guns, metal, cranes and a wrecking ball as they prepare for the attack.
Tillis arrives to the empty site, spraying a caravan with bullets. As ever in 1980’s LA no-one minds some gunfire in the middle of the day. A shootout begins, with the team firing back at Tillis and his men, as well as throwing dynamite at them. BA drives a digger into a car, crushing it, another flips over and a final one gets destroyed when Hannibal drops the wrecking ball on it.
In the final scene, we find out that both Tillis and Denham have been arrested after Mickey excavated the body of their former partner. Weirdly, Hannibal reminds BA that he needs a haircut and the two leave in the van, with Face grumbling about being left to return Murdock.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes. He’s in the full Aquamaniac costume and a demolition worker (barely counts but he does wear a fake moustache). Mr Lee and a “wino in an alley” also get a mention.
Does BA get on a plane?
Should someone be dead?
Yes. There are two big car flips and the final battle is full of dynamite being hurled around.
Steel gets better the longer it goes on, making it an excellent episode of The A-Team. Setting up the usual underdog story for the first half, then taking it up a level with the introduction of the mob boss with a life-or-death problem is a great twist. Coming halfway through the second season, when we’ve gotten very used to the rhythm of episodes, it shakes things up in welcome way.
Both villains fill their roles perfectly. Denham offers a traditional threat of sabotage and unfair play, making him threatening from the opening scene. When we meet Tillis, initially as a mysterious boss, the tension rises as we know he’s capable of killing to protect his secrets. The team have to be at their best to confront the two, all playing to their strengths especially when Face is captured. And then there’s BA’s gold hard hat.