In which Mac Murdock is hot on the case of the Tong and the Mob.
For real this time, we’re moving on from Amy ‘Triple-A’ Allen. She’s out of the credits and out of the team for good, amid rumours of off-screen tension and fallouts with George Peppard. The boys are on their own this time but won’t be for long…
For now, we open on the arms of a mystery man hunting through a darkened hotel room, grabbing an envelope and mysterious ornamental cow. Over at a Chinese restaurant, the owner is surprised when masked men barge in demanding protection money (what a surprise). When they’re refused, they knock over a few tables and shoot the place up – telling the owner they’ll be back at 2 o’clock the next day to ask again.
The team are soon on their way to the Golden Pagoda as they own a stake in it through their old friend Sam who once sheltered them in Saigon. Though they’re warned away from messing with the Tong’s who attacked, the team are determined to get their lost money back and send the bad guys a message.
As they drive through Chinatown, Murdock narrates the mission in the style of a pulp detective – Mac Murdock is on the case of the Maltese Cow. Whilst taking pictures of the Lung Chin Tong henchmen lining the streets, they’re approached by an Oddjob looking guy who makes it clear they’re not welcome.
Thanks to their earlier warning, the team are ready to ambush the Tong when they return to the Golden Pagoda at 2 pm the next day. After a brief standoff, Face throws a grenade towards them which causes panic and the team win a quick fight. With their attackers now unconscious, Face reveals the grenade was a blank!
The team dress in the all-black outfits of the Tong to make it through Chinatown to visit a young Tong member called Tommy. He’s Sam’s daughter’s boyfriend and has been forced into a life of crime after the Tong made threats to kill his parents. Hannibal and BA convince him to help and he reveals the Lung Chin are helping mobster Chris Thomas back into the country in exchange for part of his LA drugs business.
Hannibal must be on the jazz again as the next step is to drive to the Tong’s headquarters (in a laundry of course because of 80’s stereotypes). The march in and hold the leader at gunpoint whilst relieving of him of $100,000 for repairs and paying back those the Tong have scammed. This time the deadline of 2 pm is for the Lung Chin to leave LA.
Later, at the docks ready to ambush Chris Thomas, Face heads in first to distract the guards. The rest of the team sneak onto the ship holding Thomas and soon hold both him and knock-off Oddjob at gunpoint. Grabbing the mobster’s bag, Murdock sees the cow ornament fall out which distracts him long enough for the Tong and Thomas to turn the tables in a fight. BA punches a ninja but gets beaten by discount Oddjob before the police arrive and capture the A-Team and a few of the Lung Chin.
At the Police station, the cops aren’t aware of who they have in custody and foolishly leave the team unattended. Hannibal uses the opportunity to pretend to be an officer on the phone and order a fresh uniform to the room. On arrival, Hannibal changes into the uniform and marches the three out of the station and into a police car.
The team drive to the hideout where Sam and his daughter have been staying, only to find the place wrecked and the two missing. Over at their headquarters, the head of the Tong reveals his plan to use Sam, his daughter and Tommy (who they’ve realised betrayed them) as bait for the A-Team.
Thomas is jittery after the shootout at the docks, so the Lung Chin’s leader agrees to go with him on the first leg of his journey. It’s not a wise move as their limo is soon run off the road by the team in the police car. BA grabs Thomas and the Tong’s leader, then the team retreat into a firework factory as the henchmen soon arrive.
There’s a quick montage as the team round up fireworks and little cannons to defend themselves (instead of the guns they’re carrying). As the goons arrive, the fireworks are let off along with various sparklers and Catherine wheels in one of the least deadly attacks of the series.
The team move in to fight the blindsided goons, with BA getting his revenge on the new-and-unimproved Oddjob and Murdock rounding the rest up. As they capture Thomas, the ornamental cow breaks and Hannibal discovers its value is a rill of microfilm hidden inside that contains details of Thomas’ drugs empire.
While they leave the Lung Chin tied up, the team deliver Thomas to the police station as a special delivery. They drop him off outside, where he’s soon found by two officers, along with the microfilm pinned to his back.
Back at the Golden Pagoda, everything is repaired and back to normal – Sam’s daughter is even considering marrying Tommy. Hannibal asks Face if they made a little money this time. Face is happy to reveal they bagged $1,100 each – but then begins to count the deductions (somehow including healthcare) before Hannibal cuts him off. We end on BA turning the tables on Murdock by taking on the personal of BA Baracus Private Eye. Freeze frame on Murdock with tape over his mouth, unable to escape.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Yes. He steals a police uniform to escape arrest with the rest of the team.
Does BA get on a plane?
No. He does wear a fly hat though.
Should someone be dead?
No, this was a pretty non-lethal episode.
The Maltese Cow is a standout episode of The A-Team thanks to its use of two main bad guys with a plan already in motion. Responding to a fairly traditional protection racket to help an old friend, the team are drawn into a budding alliance between the Chinatown Tong and an LA mobster. I’m always a fan of episodes that set up our expectations then move onto to something new.
Without Amy, there’s more time for the team to interact with each other and for the story to develop. It allows for a more intricate plot and a range of villains, including a memorable performance from an Oddjob-like henchman who’s a rare physical match for BA (as well as two perfectly-cast lead villains). To top it off, Detective Mac Murdock gets to narrate the case in character as a pulp fiction private eye.