Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Drink up, Sergeant. The cognac is excellent."

My favorite ep from Combat! is the second season two-parter, "The Long Way Home." It's a squad episode, and all the regulars are here. Saunders and company are captured in the teaser and spend the episode as prisoners of war under an SS Captain Steiner, played by Richard Basehart. He's rather genial on the surface, with a side of sneer, and it makes him quite scary when he finally loses his temper. There's a lot of cat and mouse between Saunders and Steiner, though really, it's more cat and cat. No mice here. Okay, one. A poor soldier who was a grocery clerk and has no stomach for fighting, but even he gets a moment to shine. There's torture and beatings (it's a rather dark and brutal episode, actually), there's questionings, there's escape attempts, there's some clever ingenuity, there's a shower scene AND a "let's do our laundry" scene, which means lack of clothes and water and lots of eye candy for the women in the audience. Ahem. And at the end, Saunders still almost loses to Steiner, which is saying something.

It's a very satisfying episode, one that actually makes use of the full two-part format, rather than some that feel like an hour episode with a lot of filler. It was one of the first eps I watched when I was re-discovering the show, and it was partly what sold me on how great the show was. It wasn't afraid to get its proverbial hands dirty, and I loved that.

Vic Morrow and Richard Basehart face off.

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