Or, as I tend to call it, "Mmmail Call." Oh, how I love this episode!
We start with one of the funniest Combat! scenes ever: Saunders silently mocking Hanley's interaction with his superiors, then smarting off a little and getting Hanley to smirk at last. What a lovely beginning! Such a contrast to things to come.
And man, do those things come fast. Saunders barely steps outside before he gets a letter, opens it, scans it for about two seconds, and then goes blank. He doesn't retreat behind his walls, not at first. That'll come in a minute or two. For now, he simply loses all expression, his eyes go vacant, and you get the idea that all thought has ceased running through his mind for a moment or two. Hot diggity dog, Vic Morrow rocks! Oh, how he can make my heart ache just by looking like he's had the breath knocked out of him.
But this ep isn't just about Saunders being in need of a hug. It's a great ensemble ep, with all the rest of the guys playing "Rally 'Round the Sergeant." And we start right off the bat with dear Billy Nelson. Fie upon all those people who make fun of him as a green kid who needs help tying his bootlaces. Billy Nelson is a soldier, folks, and the only one of the squad who volunteers to go find out what's bugging Saunders. If you ask me, that's braver than volunteering to go throw a grenade at a Kraut machine gun nest -- all the Krauts are liable to do is kill you, but Saunders in a bad mood could very possibly shred you into tiny little pieces verrrrry slowly.
But before we can get too caught up in the angst and hug-needing of it all, here comes a cute, smiley medic delivering Today's Problem Child, Trenton.
(DA!)--And before we can get too enraptured with Doc, here's Hanley again, looking all studly and with his oh-nine-hundred shadow!
But let's not dwell on Hanley's hottiness, folks -- because Saunders is back, and the two of them together have got all kinds of juicy emotional tension going on. (Not THAT kind of emotional tension! Get your helmets outta the gutter!) Hanley can see Saunders' teasing mood of a few minutes ago is long gone. Saunders has retreated into his inner Fortress of Solitude and, for the moment, Hanley doesn't press the issue. After all, this is Saunders, and if he's got his shields up, it's for a reason.
Meanwhile, Kirby has caught the cute-and-smiley bug from Doc and is bouncing around shaking coffee cans and reminiscing about "home and Mama." He's so fun when he's in a jolly mood, isn't he? Probably because we rarely get to see this side of him. And isn't Smitty the ENG nice? He only gets like two lines, but I like him.
(DA!)--But don't get too caught up in Jolly Kirby Land, because Hanley seems to have caught some of Saunders' sour mood, and is getting all cranky! Cranky Hanley is really quite sexy, I've gotta say. He gets a little squinty and growlly, and gives his superiors what-for. And then he darts this sidelong glance toward Saunders that is all thoughtful and curious... and hottt! Way to please your female audience, Rick Jason!
You know, so much of this episode (and the whole show) plays out in expressions and looks and glances, things you can't write. Sigh. This is why my own fanfic always feels a little lacking to me -- all the dialog and description in the world can't make up for one of those meaningful glares or grins or glances. Sigh.
(DA!)--Say, did anyone else notice that this place is simply crawling with half-dressed men? What'd they do, poll the women of 1963 and find out they wanted to see a little more beefcake in between bombings?
Isn't Kirby sweet, trying to get Hanley to help Saunders get through whatever it is he's going through? Bad, naughty, evil Hanley, dismissing Kirby and his concerns like that.
(DA!)--Though that little lock of hair falling over Hanley's forehead looks veddy nice.
But I can't be mad at Hanley forever, because he really does try to talk to Saunders. And Saunders gets this sort of relieved expression, like it's nice to know Hanley knows something's wrong because now he doesn't have to pretend everything's normal. Even though he refuses Hanley's help, I think just the offer itself was enough to settle him down a little.
Then it's off into the woods for a jaunt, and whaddaya know? We bypass a bunch of Krauts without one of our ENGs getting trigger-happy and without a single Kraut deciding now's a good time to take a smoke break or pick apples. Wow!
All this fog is very nifty, but why is it night where our squad is, and day where the tanks are? Is it because of the fog? Are we caught in some sort of time warp?
Oh no! A firefight! And we've got one ENG down... and now Smitty is hit too! Poor Smitty! At least he doesn't get killed outright, though, that's a good sign. Most ENGs just bite the dust instantly. If he makes it through the next couple of minutes, he might be okay.
We have a very interesting variant on the standard PPT in this episode. Saunders starts out all quiet and tame, lulling Trenton into a false sense of security by making him think Saunders is just too tired and worn out to really tear into him. He lets Trenton talk himself into a hole, and then... the tiger finally springs. And as we all know, when Saunders gets mad... well, I think I'd rather face an actual tiger, myself.
By the way, does Saunders practice throwing grenades while lying down on his back? Because he has got the most incredible aim. I've tried throwing things while flat on my back, and I have almost no control over where they land. Obviously, I need more practice if I'm ever gonna be half as cool as Saunders.
And hooray! ENG Smitty lives and gets sent home! Good, 'cause I liked him, he was a nice kid. And having every single ENG die off just gets boring after a while, don'tcha think?
I'll be polite and not mention the fact that Saunders seems to have a hole in a rather unfortunate part of his pants during the last scene. He's been through enough in this ep as it is.
Yep, I love this one. One of my favorite episodes, for sure. Although I learned the hard way that it's not a good one to show to someone who's never seen Combat! before -- I loaned a tape that included this episode to my brother-in-law when he got laid up for a while, and he thought that Saunders was whiny and mean. As if! Took like four more eps to convince him otherwise. So keep that in mind when you're out converting people to Combat!ism. You have to love, or at least respect, Saunders before this episode is truly effective.