Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Ten Favorite "Combat!" Episodes

It's Vic Morrow's birthday today!  Happy birthday, dear Vic!  Also, An Old-Fashioned Girl is hosting a 1940's Week, which technically starts tomorrow, but I'm posting this a day early because I missed Vic's birthday last year and refuse to do so again.

(I don't want him to glare at me like this for forgetting his birthday.)
(Wait, maybe I do.  He's awfully yummy when he glares.)

To celebrate both Vic's birthday AND the 1940s, I'm posting the list of my ten favorite eps of my very most favorite TV show ever, the WWII drama Combat! (1962-67).  I know I rave about this show from time to time, about how much I love the characters, how I met my husband and my best friend because of it, and so on.  But I've never done a post listing my favorite eps, so... time to remedy that.

PLEASE, let us be clear.  This is NOT my list of the ten best episodes!  I'll try to post that some other time.  This is my list of my ten favorite episodes.  I've linked the ep titles to where you can watch them on YouTube if you are so inclined.  All five seasons are also available on DVD, for which I am forever grateful.

1.  "The Walking Wounded."  Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) gets a non-life-threatening wound and hitches a ride in an ambulance driven by a man who runs from danger who is hauling a dying soldier, a once-brilliant surgeon who has given up on the dying soldier, and a devoted nurse who refuses to give up on the surgeon.  Being Saunders, he has to help them solve all their problems while also keeping them safe.  This is the first episode I ever saw, and I adore it.  (Reviewed more extensively here and here.)

2.  "The Long Way Home -- Parts One and Two."  If you want to try out this show, I totally recommend starting with this two-part episode.  It involves all the main characters, and it's got a great plot.  Saunders and his squad get captured and imprisoned in a German prisoner-of-war camp run by the sadistic Captain Steiner (Richard Basehart).  (Reviewed more here, sorta.)

3.  "Far from the Brave."  Sgt. Saunders grieves over the death of his friend Grady Long, and behaves in an uncharacteristically antagonistic way toward Long's replacement (Joe Mantell), as well as toward everyone else in the squad.  (Reviewed more here, sorta.)

4.  "One More for the Road."  I often show this to people for their first episode too.  The squad finds a baby alone in a barn and pleads with Saunders to let them take it along with them.  He finally gives in, against his better judgement, and guess what?  Babies are not good things to take with you when you're sneaking around behind enemy lines.  Always listen to Saunders.  Always.

5.  "Glow Against the Sky."  Billy Nelson (Tom Lowell) gets gravely wounded, and the squad has to keep him alive and quiet while they hide in a town crawling with Krauts.

6.  "A Gift of Hope."  Saunders (can you tell who my favorite character is, by chance?) runs into a fellow sergeant named Avery (Rip Torn), whom he had believed to be dead, and who is now suspected of being a deserter.

7.  "Retribution."  Kirby (Jack Hogan) tracks down the Kraut who murdered Kirby's brother-in-law in cold blood.

8.  "The Bridge at Chalons."  The squad takes a cranky demolitions expert (Lee Marvin) to a bridge he's supposed to blow up, and of course everything goes awry and they have lots of exciting adventures.

9.  "A Distant Drum."  Lt. Hanley (Rick Jason, who is actually the other star of the show, but um... I love Saunders, so there are more Saunders eps on this list) gets wounded and separated from everyone else (this happens a lot to him), and finds sanctuary in the home of a French woman (Denise Darcel) and her adult daughter.

10.  "No Trumpets, No Drums."  Caje (Pierre Jalbert) accidentally kills a French civilian, and spends the whole episode trying to figure out how to live with that fact.  He tries to assuage his guilt by caring for the man's little daughter, but of course, that's only a temporary solution.

I love many other Combat! episodes, but those are the ten that I am drawn to over and over.  Not coincidentally, all but one of them are episodes I got to see as a teen, when a local TV channel broadcast this show for about a year.  The only exception is "A Gift of Hope," which I didn't get to see until the show came to DVD.

Anyway, happy birthday again, Vic Morrow!  Thank you for playing my favorite fictional character of all time.

Vic Morrow (1929-1982) as Sgt. Saunders on Combat!


  1. I didn't realize "A Distant Drum" made your top 10 list! Great list, several of those are on my favorites list as well. Happy birthday Vic!

    1. DKoren, hee! Well, yes, it does, though it's almost one of those "guilty pleasure" episodes. I feel like I *ought* to love eps like "Any Second Now" and "Losers Cry Deal" and quite a few others more, but... I'm very fond of it.

  2. Happy birthday, Vic! (Never mind that I don't actually "know" you. Any friend of Hamlette's is a friend of mine ;-) )

    I'll have to try watching one or more of these sometime--I didn't quite realize they were available on YouTube!

    1. Awww, that's sweet of you, Jessica :-)

      I think you should try "One More for the Road" first if you've a mind to try the show. Or "The Long Way Home," if you're willing to spend 2 hours instead of one, as it's a stronger ep -- one of the best in the whole series.

      I don't know if all the eps are available on YouTube, but there are quite a few, uploaded by one person or another.

    2. Thanks for the recommendations! I think I'll probably try at least one of them--it'll help with my WW2 fiction, and so on. Plus, it's semi-historical so I can claim it as 'homework.' (haha)

    3. Jessica, it is wonderful for helping with WwII fiction. Only a few eps are based on historical events (the pilot ep "A Day in June" is about the D-DAY invasion, and "Gideon's Army" deals with the holocaust a bit, but other eps mention historical battles and places), but they definitely will give you a good feel for life on the front lines.

  3. First of all: I love and adore your header. (Naturally.) And you managed to get everyone on it, one way or another. Yay!

    Secondly: Great post. :) I was pretty surprised to see "A Distant Drum" on your list as I didn't think it was that good an episode, but I agree with all the others on this list. "Bridge At Chalons" was slightly boring, IMO, but I need to give it a re-watch since I find my opinion of Lee Marvin softening (after watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, strangely enough - I love a good villain).

    Elisabeth and I watched "A Gift of Hope" just yesterday and Avery was as amazing as ever. <3 (We also recently watched a Man From UNCLE episode that Rip Torn guest-starred in, which was neat.) The urge to write some fanfiction is very strong...

    1. Eva, well... I love all The Guys. Can't leave any of them off.

      It's true that "A Distant Drum" is not the most splendid of episodes. It's the main reason I put that little disclaimer at the beginning -- that this is not my ranking of the best eps, just my favorites.

      Lee Marvin is awesome. I'm glad you're starting to appreciate him more! He's totally what makes "The Bridge at Chalons" a favorite -- I remember the first time I saw it, going ga-ga over the fact that he actually guest-starred on the show. I love a good antagonist and appreciate a good villain, and he's so delicious as both.

      Avery is wonderful. The end.

      No, not the end -- I've seen that MFU ep too! It's quite amusing.

  4. Also, I love how you have two Burt Kennedy eps on your list - he always writes/directs such good, solid stories. (My personal favorite of his is "Next In Command", but I love TWW and FFTB almost as much.)

    1. I have never liked "Next in Command" all that well because I spend the entire time wanting to slap the guest star. Sorry. But yes, Burt Kennedy for the win!

    2. I don't like what's-his-face either, but there are some great Billy and Littlejohn moments and Brockmeyer and an interesting plot. So, I like it lots. (Plus, there's something indefinable about it that puts it higher on my favorites list than the other two Burt Kennedy episodes, though I think FFTB is a better episode, overall.)

      By the way, did I ever tell you that I showed my grandfather FFTB? It was the first C! episode he'd ever watched and he really enjoyed it. :)

    3. Well, yes, the squad as a whole is lovely in it :-) I just detest Cross, is all.

      How cool your grandfather liked FFTB! It is stunning, for sure. So much Angry Saunders so treasure.

  5. I just found your blog, and I find it very interesting. Combat! is my third favorite show, after Rawhide and The Wild Wild West (well maybe second favorite, I haven't quite decided, because I mostly like TWWW because of Robert Conrad, but I think Combat's actually a better show). Anyway, this list of your favorite Combat episodes is interesting. I'm surprised that A Distant Drum is on the list, since I know you're a Saunders fan, and it's a Hanley episode. But I'm a Hanley fan, so I'm glad there's at least one Hanley episode on your list, even though it's not my favorite one. (That would be Evasion, or maybe Finest Hour).
    I don't know if I could make a Top Ten list, because I have so many favorites! It would be more like a top ten from each season, list.
    BTW, I really like your header, especially the picture of Lt. Hanley.

    1. Hello, Connie! I'm glad you're digging my blog :-) I actually really like both Rawhide and The Wild Wild West too! Especially that Robert Conrad :-9

      "A Distant Drum" seems to be surprising a lot of people when they see this list, hee. Yes, I'm a Saunders fan, but I'm extremely fond of Hanley as well. My other fave Hanley eps are "Any Second Now" and "Hills are for Heroes."

      If you want to see more screencaps of the ever delectable lieutenant, we've got two pages of them on the C! fansite a friend and I co-run, here and here. That second page has a bigger version of the shot I used in my header -- you can click on all the thumbnails to get a higher-resolution image.

      Thanks for stopping by! Always nice to "meet" another C! fan :-)

    2. Oh, I'm happy you like Rawhide and The Wild Wild West too! I'm glad you like Lt. Hanley too. Hills are for Heroes is my absolutely favorite episode, but I tend to consider it more of a squad episode than a Hanley Episode (although Rick Jason did a marvelous job in that one!). I like Any Second Now a lot too.
      Thank you for the links to the screencaps of the "ever delectable lieutenant." I agree. :) I've actually been on the Fruit Salad site before, reading some of the fanfiction (I avoided fanfiction for a long time, since I like to stick with the actual episode stories, but recently I started reading some, and now I'm hooked). I didn't realize there were pictures there as well.

    3. Oh my! I just read your Scuttlebutt review of Hills are For Heroes on Fruit salad! It is Awesome! I most certainly agree that Rick Jason is awesome in that episode! Everyone else did a marvelous job as well. Vic Morrow is a spectacular director!

    4. Connie, it's true that HAFH is more of an ensemble piece, you're right. I think of a bunch on my list here as ensemble eps too. Those tend to be my favorites, on a whole.

      And hee, I'm glad you're enjoying Fruit Salad :-D We have a TON of stuff there :-D And even though we don't add stuff constantly like we did for the first few years, we do still add new content now and then.

      "Hills are for Heroes" could stand alone as a feature film, don't you think? It's wonderful.

    5. Yes, Hills are For Heroes could definitely be a feature film.
      I really like your Scuttlebutt reviews. You have a great humorous style of writing. I can't wait until you post more reviews (you are planning on it, I hope?) I'd especially like to read your review of A Rare Vintage. Also, Beneath the Ashes. I like episodes where Saunders rescues Hanley. (I really wish they had more episodes where Hanley rescues Saunders, besides just Chapel at Able-Five.)

    6. Thanks, Connie! I just got 4 new ep reviews posted last week, the first in a while. Hoping to do 4 more this spring sometime.

      The trouble is, there are almost 50 eps I haven't watched yet, and I am kind of savoring them so I'll have new-to-me episodes for a few years yet... I only watch 1 or 2 new ones a year. There are 8 eps in season 5 I've already seen, and then there are 3 in season 3 that I've seen and not reviewed yet (including A Rare Vintage), and 1 in season 4.

      And after that, I have to see an ep once or twice before I'm ready to do a Scuttlebutt viewing (I rewatch the episode and take copious notes while I watch, then type them up). And once I have eps typed up, Thompson Girl has to find time to get screencaps for them and format everything for the site, cuz she's the webmistress.

      Short answer: more will come! Eventually.

    7. That's good, I'm looking forward to them! BTW, you have A LOT of self-discipline! There's no way I could space out the episodes like that! when I like a show, I can't get enough, and end up using up all the episodes really fast!

    8. I am weirdly addicted to making things last as long as possible. About ten years ago, I watched all of the (short-lived) series Firefly in only a week or so, and then hated myself for it because now I will never again get to watch a new-to-me episode.

      (If I really had good self-discipline, I wouldn't have a problem losing 20 pounds like my doctor told me I needed to last year.)

  6. I haven' really heard of this series besides at your blog, but it sounds real exciting! Maybe I should give it a try.
    Can you watch the episodes independently or is it best to start from the beginning?

    1. Rose, it's not very well-known today, but if you talk to people who were kids in the 1960s, they will likely remember it, and probably fondly. It's extremely well-written and has some very complex episodes.

      You can totally watch episodes independently, except obviously you don't want to watch part 2 before part 1 of a two-part episode (there are only 3 of those, though). The series does kind of sort of have a bit of a progression for some of the characters, but there's no real arc -- like most shows from back then, the eps are pretty well stand-alones.

      That being said, seasons 1 and 2 are the strongest.

    2. I tried watching it yesterday, (started with The Long Way Home as you suggested) and I am completely hooked!!
      I expected it to be good, but not THAT good! It's really suspenseful and exciting and I love the characters.
      So now I have to watch all the episods:)

    3. Rose, squeeeeeeee! I love that you're hooked! I know, it's just positively wonderful, isn't it? The show has so many good, deep, delicious episodes. You've really got me in the mood for "The Long Way Home" now and I might give it a rewatch tonight, we'll see.

      I'd love to know more of your thoughts on it when you've seen more!

  7. Aggghhh well this post makes me happy. Very, very happy. Even though I still haven't started Combat!, I can tell I'm going to love it. A lot.

    My sisters will be happy to hear there's an episode where they have to take care of a baby. We are of the opinion that every TV show needs to have an episode with that plot, otherwise it's missing something. It won't necessarily be ruined. But it will be missing something.

    1. Megan, YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY!

      Every show needs a baby episode. And a transporting-nitroglycerin episode. And a quicksand episode. Especially if they were made in the '60s.


Agree or disagree? That is the question...

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)