Friday, February 01, 2008

How I do love Combat! I just watched a first-season ep that always hits me hard: "Forgotten Front." It's a really early ep -- number 6 -- and Kirby's first appearance. And I'd never seen it before the DVDs came out, so it always feels sorta new to me.

Anyway, in it, Sgt. Saunders and Caje and Kirby and Doc1 capture this Kraut named Dorffman. He's not a big, scary Kraut, he's a little, combed-over, funny-nosed man who never wanted to be a soldier and would rather sing songs than shoot people. He's played with perfect pathos by Albert Paulson, who went on to play a super-scary Kraut in "The Pillbox" and a tired one in "Escape to Nowhere." But here, he's just a scared prisoner who wants nothing more than to stay alive.

Therein lies the inevitable rub. And this is where, for me, the ep gets amazing. Dorffman has overheard that the Americans are planning a big advance. And there's a German tank on the scene that's trying to keep our guys from getting back to our lines. Dorffman is now a big liability: do we try to take him with us even though he will slow us down and possibly alert the Krauts to our whereabouts? Do we leave him behind, where he can tell his superiors about our plans? Or do we take him out of the picture permanently?

And Saunders implies to Caje that when the time comes, he needs to take Option C and kill the Kraut. Wait a minute -- this is a 1960s TV show! And Saunders just (implicitly) ordered Caje to kill an unarmed prisoner? Whoa! To me, that's pretty shocking. (Though I can't help wondering why they couldn't have tied Dorffman up and gagged him and left him in the cellar where he probably wouldn't be found until his info was obsolete anyway.) Anyway, this ep always strikes me as kind of envelope-pushing, like viewers would be left going, "Wowee, what'll they do next week? Abandon a baby to the Fates? Kill off a regular? You never know, with this show!" I guess it strikes me as a sort of 60s equivalent to Joss Whedon killing off Jenny Calendar in season 2 of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: viewers will never feel entirely certain of an ep's outcome after this.

(You can go read my snarky Scuttlebutt comments on this ep here on our C! fansite, Fruit Salad.)

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