In which Face runs for office and Clifton James returns.
It seems that I spoke too soon last episode as we’re a back to the Cylon-less credits thanks to a retuning Amy Allen. It’s making this a difficult season to follow, with Amy’s goodbye being all the way back in When You Comin’ Home Range Rider? but then seeing her in most episodes since, with the notable exception of Steel. Perhaps there was a plan in production, but the episode order is a mess.
Melinda Culea isn’t the only return, as we once again find Clifton James playing a corrupt lawman – a Sheriff this time rather than the Warden from season one’s Pros and Cons. He’s just as nasty as we see him beating up a reporter threatening to expose his corruption and reminding the journalist of two men who’ve ended up in ditches after opposing him.
The report meets up with Amy in a café, who hilariously mistakes a waiter with a bad wig for Hannibal. In fact, Hannibal is busy on set, so Face and BA lead the meeting. We’re treated to one of BA’s best lines when he’s asked how he wants his coffee: “in a cup, fool”.
Later, while the rest of the team wait for Face to spring Murdock from the VA, Hannibal explains that they’re sending Face in to stand in the upcoming Sheriff election as a war hero – with Amy posing as the first lady. It seems to be another mission with no money for the team, but no-one voices any concerns. The investments from the many small businesses they’ve saved by now must be paying off.
The team organises for Face and Amy to arrive in the small town by plane, convincing Sheriff Dawson to present him with a key to the town on camera. Face, now posing as Joe Morgan, refuses the key which really upsets the Sheriff. He mentions that the whole thing smelled like a set up and asks his Deputy to dig up dirt on Morgan.
BA and Murdock drive around the town in the van, promoting Morgan’s campaign by loudspeaker and passing out leaflets to residents. Howlin’ Mad tells BA that he ran for school president once but lost on a technicality, “they’re weren’t holding an election”.
Morgan’s next stop on the campaign trail is an illegal gambling den that pays protection money to Sheriff Dawson. The new candidate first informs the patrons gambling is illegal but also reveals that Dawson has been rigging the games. A fight breaks out, which the team win and go on to smash up the tables just as the Sheriff arrives. It’s all too much for him and he decides its time to eliminate the competition.
Across the country, Decker receives news that Face has been flagged up when Dawson ran a check on him. Delighted, the Colonel orders an immediate plane and rounds up his MPs.
Back in the small town, Dawson sends his Deputy into Face’s hotel room to shoot him while he sleeps. Fortunately, the team are prepared, and he unloads his shotgun into pillow as a camera films everything. Even more fortunately, the Deputy decides to say “so long Joe Morgan” before shooting for dramatic effect.
Meanwhile, Hannibal jumps the Sheriff and forces him to drive at gunpoint. He learns that the Sherriff has sent Face’s picture around his contacts and deduces that Decker will be on his way. It’s bad news for Dawson as it means they’ll have to make sure Decker finds out about him now. The Sheriff’s confident though as he knows the team have no evidence – he’s proven wrong though when Hannibal informs him that they’re about to highjack a bootleg whisky delivering coming into town under Dawson’s orders.
The team and Sheriff all pile into a stolen patrol car and chase down the whisky truck. They’ve been set up though, as three police cars soon pull out and begin to shoot at them. In a rare display of intelligence, the cops shot at the tyres, sending the team into an awesome double car flip.
No-one is hurt of course but after a short gunfight the team are out of ammo and captured by Dawson’s men. The Sheriff is quite pleased with himself and laughs that he’ll make it easy for Decker to capture them – by making sure they’re dead!
The Deputy heads back to town to round up Amy, but both are ambushed by Decker and his men (for once not arriving with all sirens blaring). While Amy tries to explain the situation, Decker only cares about capturing the A-Team, forcing the Deputy to lead the way.
Over at a warehouse, the team and handcuffed and locked in a room awaiting Amy – because of course Dawson can’t kill four now and one later. The Sheriff heads off for a beer while they wait, leaving one – yes one – cop to keep an eye on the team.
In record time, Murdock is up into the roof, through the vents and lands to knock out the guard to free the rest of the team. Wanting to rescue Amy, the team use montage to create some weapons from various tools and materials lying around the warehouse. Unusually, much of the sequence shows the faces of the team, hardly relying on hand actors at all.
When Sheriff Dawson arrives and pulls on the handle of the warehouse door, the whole side of the building falls around him like a Buster Keaton gag and the attack begins. The team spray the police with oil then cover them in grain whilst shooting at them. There’s just time to round the dirty cops into a truck before we hear the early warning sirens of Decker.
The Colonel screeches to a halt outside the warehouse, noting the recent damage means there’s trouble. He doesn’t have long to plan though as he’s caught in a pincer movement by a truck on each side. A gloating Hannibal, pretending not to know Amy very well, leaves a quote for her paper – the A-Team triumph again.
We end back in the van, where Face learns he lost the election by five votes (but ultimately won by default as Sheriff Dawson has been arrested). Murdock has a taste for politics and tries out his Nixon impression while BA scowls and drives the team away into the sunset, without a freeze frame for once.
Let’s wrap up with a few key questions.
Does Hannibal wear a disguise?
Sort of. He’s a cameraman early on but only wears a three-piece suit as the Sheriff wouldn’t recognise his face anyway.
Does BA get on a plane?
No, but he does get some serious airtime inside a double car flip.
Should someone be dead?
Yes, the whole team and the Sheriff wouldn’t have survived that flip.
The White Ballot is another example of why The A-Team exploded in popularity and become a cultural icon in the 1980s. Without being particularly inventive in the story and whilst recycling a villain from the previous season, this episode is still top-quality entertainment. It’s funny, non-stop action with no time wasted – every scene rushes us forwards to something exciting.
Clifton James excels as a character even closer to his famous Live and Let Die character, JW Pepper, than last time. He’s a real threat again though, as you see him rise from annoyance to deciding to execute the whole team (including Amy) – thanks to his backstory we know it’s no idle threat as he’s left at least two men in a ditch before. A great villain for the team to battle.