Most of the country is abuzz about Superbowl weekend, so Enlisted has capitalized on that fervor with an episode that is not only one of the best football/sports themed sitcom plotlines I've seen in a while, but the show's hands-down best episode yet. Before I get into it, I mentioned in the comments of last weeks episode that the show now has a new bumped up time slot right after FOX's perennial hit Bones. It looks like the move did wonders, increasing the ratings 67%. The Lead-In theory proposes that viewers will generally stick around after a big show to see what follows, but I didn't take into account one factor that network was very keen to make use of:
The Hunk Factor
In this week's adventure, the unit is having its annual Flag Football competition with a Marine Corps unit and CSM Cody seeks to break the pitiful Rear-D losing (and scoreless) streak with his new secret weapon, the super soldier himself SSG Hill. However, the platoon's' complete cluelessness as pigskin practitioners may prove too great of a task even for Pete. Meanwhile, CPL Hill is looking to get in the good graces of a lovely local waitress and her son by trying to accomplish a simple act of hometown heroism, but even with his bro PFC Hill's goofy enthusiastic assistance, he may have bit off more than he can chew. Things go awry in both departments, but where there's a Hill, there's always way (Sorry. I'm not sorry).
I've had quite a few wild times during my unit flag football tournaments, the highlight of every OrgDay* where some teams spend weeks preparing for what would appear to a bystander as a simple frolic in the fields. But make no mistake: as sure as the military is full of hotblooded Type-A personality whipper-snappers, the bragging rights won in flag football is VERY. SERIOUS. BUSINESS. CAPS LOCK. To be sure, it's certainly fun as hell mowing down the youngsters half my size while clawing for that belt flag (having my karma delivered unto me in the form of a repeated bell-ringing by a pair of very large Samoan linemen...not so much), but these games often have a way of getting very emotionally heated which is never fun. At the end of the day though, we always remember that it's One Team One Fight, and the most important thing is to celebrate our cohesion as a team, some truly wonderful ESPN Top-Ten level athleticism, and good times together with comrades. I'm glad that the show was able to demonstrate that feeling in how seriously CSM Cody treats his wager with the Marine CSM, while still letting Keith David go off the chain showing some really great wacky comedic sensibilities that we don't see too often ("Be Coooool!").
The comedy is a lot stronger overall as well, from the very first scene involving those tear-"jerking" Soldier surprise reunion videos, to the ridiculous football practice scene, to Geoff Stults' fearless commitment to that halter-top. The punchline rate-of-fire here this week is highest thus far, and nearly all the jokes land center mass.
But sure enough, its the sure-fire shot to the heart that makes this episode stand out even more.
Gut Check Time: And like a bullet pass to the chest, this weeks emotionall wallop comes through Derrick and Randy's quickly deteriorating plan to have young Sam Stone take part in a surprise reunion with his father Brandon, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan, during the game. While initially motivated by understandably self serving reasons, Derrick surely saves the day when the plan works out and Sam's father shows up at the last second to embrace his son.
Played by none other than muthafuckin' Superman himself, Brandon Routh!
I have to be honest with you all: I never really liked those Service member surprise reunion videos. While of course it must be an overwhelmingly amazing experience to have your loved one return to you so unexpectedly, I always felt like those videos were at best cloyingly manipulative and at worst voyeuristic. I dunno....maybe i'm still raw about my first re-deployment, seeing all the older guys embraced by their families and the young couples smooching it up like they were trying to get a years worth of kisses in in one go; meanwhile I had to walk back to nearly an empty barracks room without a ride and all my shit in tow. Yeah, that sucked. Fortunately now I have my own lovely lady to greet me (-I Love You Honeybun-)**, but I know some soldiers will still have to endure that pain to some degree, so I will do everything in my power soften the blow for them. A cold six pack waiting in the fridge certainly couldn't hurt (thanks again for those brewskis after my second redeployment Leslie, a little means a whole lot.). That all said, I think that the episode handled it well by not making it too schmaltzy and keeping it balanced with the humor in that the teary reunion itself is a partial callback joke. Well played.
Gut Check Over-Time: But no, Biegel and crew won't let me off that easy! At the end credits, we see Randy get a special thank you gift from his brothers in the form of his own soldier reunion video made while he was in-utero (which is something he mentions longing for a couple times throughout the episode.) Maybe for some that might have been too saccharine, and I wouldnt really argue against anyone who felt that way. I'd only say that I think that throughout the episode and the series' run as a whole, it was an earned moment between the brothers and........you know, I think I need to change these wornout air filters....must be so much Afghanistan sand clogging em....right as I was watching this I suddenly got a whole bunch of dust in my eyes man...I dunno it was like a whole lot and my eyes got all red and watery....don't you hate when that happens??....Oh what luck, it's raining now, let me step outside for some air.... let the rain drip down my face and wash my eyes out....yeah.
-Ahem- So, Enlisted scores once again*** with its strongest episode yet, and hopefully the ratings spike and slowly-but-surely growing following will ensure it's continued success. As always, please feel free to fire away with all your wonderful questions and comments. I look forward to another episode and another chance to interact with the lovely BAD community. Peace.
*Organizational Day: A day set aside for the unit to engage in a multitude of leisure activities to include games, family events, awards ceremonies and cookouts in order to foster unit cohesion and family bonding. Known colloquially to soldiers far and wide as "Mandatory Fun", since the event is actually established as a command function and is designated as your place of duty for the day; missing/skipping out bears the possibility of disciplinary action.
**Speaking of Buns, while the Hunk factor of this show is inescapable, Angelique Cabral also is a classic hearthrob in her own right, and I really liked that "Beyonce booty" joke. I am well aware of the dangers of backhanded compliments promoting objectification, but I also would be remiss and dishonest if I didnt recognize that I'm sure many average viewers (and soldiers) interest would be piqued by knowing there is a bevy of lovely ladies anchoring this show. You aint no "Budget Jessica Alba" homegirl, you are Grade-A leading lady!
.....I love you wife....
***I had to get one more sports pun in; I wouldn't be a proper shitty internet journalist if I didn't beat a joke into the ground with merciless aplomb...just like I'm doing with these extended footnotes! I'm here all year folks, tip your bartenders...