TV Talk: VyceVictus On ENLISTED 1.03 “Pete’s Airstream”

Our own active duty soldier continues his reviews of Fox's new Army comedy.

"I get to go to sleep to the sounds of at least ten dudes beating their dicks like their lives depend on it. It sounds like an armada of tiny little helicopters struggling as hard as they can to maintain a constant hover. Periodically throughout the night someone gets up to go the bathroom, and as if an air to air fighter appeared in the area, the tiny helicopters disappear at the sign of movement. The bathroom door closes, and the helicopters are back in flight. It's like this every night. Some nights I fly my own little helicopter and take to the sky like a modern day Red Baron. War is truly hell."

This delightful rumination made by an infantry buddy of mine is but one small example that highlights just how precious privacy can be for a soldier. From simply taking a breather, to escaping the prying eyes of overbearing leaders, to dealing with hidden demons - having some alone time is important. However, there are limits to how far you can take things. Episode 3 of Enlisted deals with this as expected with fun comedy and touching warmth that is very surprising for a simple sitcom (though by now I have been enraptured by the show's sense of heart enough to expect this quality element each week, and it delivers once again.)

When SSG Hill gets new quarters secluded from the rest of his unit, his troops (and a forlorn Randy in particular) lament that he doesn't want to get to know them. Meanwhile, SSG Perez falls under the cross-hairs of PV2 Robinson and Park as they seek to break through her steely no-nonsense professional demeanor with a good ol' fashioned girls' night out.

I like how the two storylines explore the handling of relationships between these NCOs* and their soldiers. It was nice to see the effects on morale and cohesion when a leader is not involved in the lives of their soldiers, and also when that relationship becomes too close and crosses the line into fraternization. In good old sitcom fashion, things come to a head and boil over during a bitchin' kegger fueled by "Mouth-aritas" and the much beloved pig on a spit grill at SSG Hill's new digs.

Gut Check Time: And Here Comes The Boom**; later on when the smoke clears (or fire extinguisher fumes in this really was a helluva party) CSM Cody arrives to take stock of the events and find out whats truly bothering Pete. In a simple, brief scene, Pete hints at the pain and trauma he's been holding in with a few words but a look of constrained anguish that says it all (props to Geoff Stults for pulling that look off; though a zany comedy, I appreciate the commitment all the actors have to their characters). Though instead of a full-on melodramatic tough man breakdown, the writers tap into the Bond of Brothers that is the core of the show and have the boys arrive at Pete's for an off-screen heart-to-heart, followed by Randy's reflections on the importance of dealing with difficult personal issues.

I think some people may have issue with this, just barely scraping the surface of such a serious issue like PTSD and keeping things "safe"/"light" for the sake of easy sitcom familiarity, and I understand that criticism. Still, I think this is the mark of a talented writing crew that can handle a delicate subject with restraint. I mean, It sure as hell beats those ridiculously ham-fisted "very special episodes" from '80s and '90s sitcoms:

The inclusion of the unit at the end also highlights a strong point throughout this episode that I'm glad they began to expound upon: this supporting cast is great!*** Really enjoyed Tania Gunadi and Michelle Buteau expanding their roles, and I like Mort Burke's (that's really his name!) smarter-than-you-think dweeb routine. Oh, and Kyle Davis' Dobkiss rap was straight money. I particularly wanna applaud Angelique Cabral's run as the leading lady. You see....I'm hesitant to get into the inevitable politics of women in the military. I personally believe that while some of the criticisms are tired old thinking, there are also very legitimate concerns that must be addressed regarding combat roles and hazardous duty positions. The analysis of these kinds of things are beyond my pay grade. I also don't feel qualified remarking on the difficulty and uphill struggle that women have faced in ascending the ranks. That all said, I just want to express how good it is to have a character on TV showcasing an example of all the upstanding female soldiers that we have the honor of serving with. That she is also a minority might lead naysayers to cry foul about political correctness, but I know the demographics of this show directly reflect the wonderful mix of cultures we have in the service (and they are even aware enough of the race bit to make a nice joke about it). In fact, Cabral's SSG Perez is a pitch-perfect rendition of one of my most vivid memories in training camp. Drill Sergeant Morales took absolutely no shit from anyone and was a walking terror that no one dared cross. Her greatest weapon though was not her bark, it was her torturous "Morale-cise" calisthenic fitness routine that would smoke even the fittest of young troops. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

So by this point, you're either down with the show or you're not. I certainly won't proclaim it's a marvel of television writing, but it definitely knows exactly what it wants to do and pulls it off assuredly. I don't want to use the term "formulaic" as it has negative undertones, but there is definitely the feel of an established pattern in the arc of each episode that serves the show well. I look forward to continuing episodes, and as always I look forward to all your terrific questions and comments. Peace.

*Non-Commissioned Officers: The history of the NCO corps is long and storied, too much for a mere footnote, but at its most basic the NCO is an enlisted person who earns rank and authority to lead soldiers and execute the commander's intent.

**People are gonna give me shit for this, but as I mentioned before I am a sucker for movies that have heart, no matter how silly or bad they might be. Kevin James absolutely throwing himself into those MMA beatings (with a surprisingly believable old fat wrestler physique) was a more than serviceable combination of bloodlust and bleeding heart. I dug it. I will fight you. For the children.

***Yo this cast is great but where the hell are Huggins and Chubowski???!!!! Sad to say, but it looks like the dreaded tape test got the best of 'em.

Follow VyceVIctus' Enlisted reviews here.