The A-Team “Wheel of Fortune” (part 1 of 2)
In this episode, we get an interesting blend of humor, action, and gratuitous stunt casting, as Murdock takes center stage, Face and B.A. provide the backup, and George Peppard… Well, he basically makes a cameo appearance. I guess this was when he and Mr. T weren’t getting along so well.
Oddly enough, even though this is primarily a showcase for Dwight Schultz, the story he’s given to work with is amazingly slight. Still, he’s the best thing about the episode. Let’s take a look.
After the titles, we begin with Murdock appearing on Wheel of Fortune. His hair is slicked back, and he’s wearing a suit that looks like he went to the set of Three’s Company and raided Don Knotts’ wardrobe.
I’d make a remark about him not looking the part, but given the pedigree of most game show contestants, he’s hardly the oddest ever. For evidence of this, just seek out some old episodes of The Newlywed Game. Damn, if you ever thought your family was a bunch of goobers…
Come to think of it, that applies to any show hosted by Bob Eubanks. But I digress.
Face watches the show in the green room, and it would seem he’s not only managed to get Murdock onto the show, but he’s also figured out a formula for deciphering the puzzles. You know, because those things are always so goddamn hard. I’ve always felt that most of the folks on Wheel of Fortune got on because they couldn’t quite grasp the Dice Game on The Price is Right.
Murdock spins the wheel one more time just to bump up the winnings, much to Face’s dismay. Regardless, he easily solves the puzzle. One funny thing I notice here is the contestant on the far right seems to be less sporting then the average contestant, showing clear annoyance at Murdock’s success. Not being an avid viewer of game shows, I don’t know if this is a typical occurrence, but I would guess this sort of thing is edited out by the time the show goes to air.
Back in the green room, Face is watching a live feed of the show on a rather dinky (even for the period) TV set. I guess most of the show’s budget went into the wheel, Pat Sajak’s hairstylist, and energy pills for Vanna so she wouldn’t collapse from going back and forth across the stage, turning letters and clapping all damn day.
Pat congratulates Murdock, and not only has our nutty buddy won $28,000 thus far, we also learn he’s from the Westwood area of L.A. Really? Does everybody in Westwood talk with a pronounced southern accent? Seriously, every time the man opens his mouth, it’s Dukes of Hazzard time. I guess he’s from the south of Westwood.
Murdock attributes his success to “clean living, plenty of exercise, and a complete familiarity with the frequency tables of the alphabet,” and the only thing keeping this from being the dorkiest thing ever uttered on a game show is that it more than likely has nothing on some of the shit you hear on game shows in real life.
Murdock chooses his prizes, one of which is a vacation to Hawaii. The other prizes are apparently intended for each of the team members: Hannibal is getting a humidor and cigars, B.A. is getting some car wax and a high tech buffer, and Face is getting a waterbed. Murdock is scheduled to return in two weeks to compete for a new Mazda, and that’s about the extent to which Wheel of Fortune factors into the plot of this episode.
Yep, the only thing Wheel of Fortune has to do with this episode is to serve as a framing device. Well, at least they don’t have Pat Sajak kicking in doors while Vanna White distracts some bad guys with her smile. Although I’d laugh my ass off if that did happen.
Face and Murdock celebrate in the green room (where a none too subtle poster for Family Ties is hanging right behind Face, I might add) and it would seem the place Murdock is being constantly sprung from these days is a VA hospital, not a psycho ward.
Face says he’ll figure out a way to get Murdock out for his trip to Hawaii, but is somewhat hurt to find out that Murdock plans on taking a dental hygienist he’s got a thing for instead of Face. Can’t say I blame Murdock. You never know when you’ll suddenly need a dental hygienist on vacation. Those damn gums can flare up at any time.
Face refuses to help Murdock unless he gets to go to Hawaii, and the next thing we know, Face is driving up to the VA hospital. As we cut to the interior of the hospital, I have to smile, because according to the credits, this episode is directed by David Hemmings. Hemmings is a very good, accomplished character actor who’s appeared in films like the classic Dario Argento giallo thriller Deep Red, and an Australian horror flick called Dark Forces that I’d love to track down some day.
And yes, it is that easy to make me happy.
Seeing the duty nurse walk away, Face switches around some charts, and poses as a doctor when she returns, informing her that he’s come to pick up Murdock for a two week study on delayed stress.
After some mutual eyeball flirting, Face is handed off to the obligatory battle axe nurse who makes a call to a man in a suit, who apparently has been keeping tabs on Murdock’s visitors.
After she hangs up, she informs Face that someone has already picked up Murdock and is taking him to a “general” who “needs a kidney”. The duration of said transplant is also two weeks, so Face decides that Hannibal must have sprung Murdock. He runs back to his car and drives off, and is soon being followed by another car.
Cut to Face’s apartment, where B.A. is watching a Bears game, and cheering on Walter Payton while wearing a jersey with the man’s number on it. Not only does Mr. T have on the jersey, but he’s also wearing army fatigues and all the gold chains you would expect, while holding a machine gun in his lap. So basically, B.A. is every annoying sports fan you’ve ever had as a roommate. Except for the machine gun, I would hope.
Face enters, and B.A. is startled to the point where he leaps up and aims his machine gun in the direction of the door. Face takes it all in stride (have a crazy roommate long enough, and nothing the guy does will faze you) and in an amusing scene, we learn that Hannibal has run off to Rio with two women that he and Face were planning to con.
Face calls Hannibal and tells him what’s going on, and George Peppard picks up maybe the easiest paycheck of his life. Say a few lines, get attention from twin stewardesses… I would guess they did this sort of thing a lot towards the end of the series, just to keep the man from flat out quitting the show. Still, it says quite a bit about Peppard where he can literally phone in a performance and still be entertaining.
So, we’re down to three team members for this episode. Let the fun begin!
As B.A. wonders where “the crazy fool” is, we find the crazy fool himself in the back of a car, blindfolded. Murdock is told by one of his captors, a man who looks a bit like Rutger Hauer if he decided to model for L.L. Bean, that he’s in the fictional country of “Baraq”. Which sounds nothing at all like “Iraq”. Sure, Baraq is supposedly in South America, but I’m paid to be a smartass, folks.
The man introduces himself as Joshua, and a younger man in the front seat is introduced as Jeremy, a pilot. They’re apparently with the CIA, and they need Murdock to help them steal a top secret Soviet helicopter. As with other episodes, the level of nuttiness Murdock displays varies, and here he seems to be just tired in that amusing way Tommy Lee Jones always is. It works quite well, I have to say. This is one of the few times that inconsistent characterization actually helps a story.
Murdock is supposed to teach Jeremy how to fly the helicopter, and after a segue, we go to Face on his car phone, as he tells B.A. that Murdock is not in Hawaii. As he hangs up, the car that was following him earlier pulls up. The men turn out to be cops, and a nice little chase ensues that ends with Face being caught, and then we break for commercial.
Later, B.A. shows up at the VA hospital posing as a rep from Wheel of Fortune. Amusingly enough, he tells the nurse on duty he’s a masseuse, and I’m sure there are several folks I’d want a massage from less than Mr. T, but right now I can’t think of any.
After he heads out, it turns out B.A. bugged the phone line, and he listens to the nurse calling the man she spoke with earlier. I guess B.A. has a gadget that tells him where all the outgoing calls go to, because after the call he heads straight for a stereo store.