Follow the rest of VyceVictus' Enlisted reviews here.
This week's episode of Enlisted features a terrific ensemble of guest stars who take the Hill brothers on a mission of honor, self-discovery and good old-fashioned inter-service rivalry hijinks. While the rest of the platoon gets to enjoy off time for Soldier Appreciation Day, the brothers Hill are stuck with escort detail for a trio of Korean War vets visiting their old stomping grounds: Patrick, Dan and Russell. Distinguished veteran actors of stage and screen Stacy Keach, Dean Stockwell and Barry Bostwick star as Patrick, Dan and Russell. First impressions go less than smoothly, as the boys are immediately put off by their cantankerous quirks and dour dispositions. Just the same, the old wardogs take none too kindly to the likes of Derrick's smart mouth and Randy's not-so-smart one. Things are already off to a bad enough start as it is, but the situation really takes a sudden turn for the worse when the boys get duped by the old vets, who abscond with one of the Motorpool HMMWVs and peel off like bats out of hell.
After a dressing down by CSM Cody for getting "tricked by a bunch of old men into giving them a Hummer" (this whole double entendre exchange is gold), the Hills ride off to search for the geriatric trio. The search doesn't take long at all though, for the vets have made their way to the local watering hole. It's here where one of the ongoing side stories develops as Derrick learns that his potential love interest Erin has a six-year-old son, usually (and unfortunately) a red flag for most potential suitors. No time to lament romance endeavors though, as we find the trio seated at the bar with a fourth beer at an open seat and learn the true intention of their visit to Fort McGee. It turns out that their dear friend and battle buddy Sergeant John Sullivan has recently passed away and the vets have come to pay their respects. More specifically, they've come to execute one last mission for "Sully" as his dying wish. An old Army Unit Coin Sully earned was taken by a jealous Marine, and is now held as a war trophy on display at a Marine bar down the coast. The vets presume the boys don't understand their plight, but Pete and his brothers then relay the tale of the family coin they carry which belongs to their father who died in battle. The men come to an understanding, along with seeing kindred spirits in each other, and embark on their mission deep into Jarhead territory.
Things don't go as planned though, as the soldiers are desperately outnumbered. While Derrick and Dan sit on the sidelines, Dan's reflections about relationships stir something inside Derrick, and he decides to go headfirst into danger and take a risk like he never has before. This serves as a great distraction however, so Russel and Randy devise a hilarious ruse that's right out of a Bugs Bunny bit to swipe the coin unnoticed. It's never that easy, though; as the old military saying goes, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and things turn into bedlam in a hurry. Bony fists start flying and while Derrick, Pete and Patrick attempt to survive the melee, Randy has to face the lumbering Marine bartender; astute viewers will recognize this as a bonus guest star cameo appearance by Pete Koch, better known to some of you cinephiles as "The Swede" in Clint Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge!
Though faced with overwhelming odds, there's no limit to what a soldier can accomplish with some guts, a bit of ingenuity and someone to watch his back, and the crew escapes with treasure in hand. All seems to have ended well, until we see that Patrick decides to entrust the coin to SSG Hill to deliver to Sully's remains. The old soldier has been holding back deep pain for all these years, and cannot bring himself to attend the funeral for fear of the terrors kept deep down that may resurface. The show ends with the crew, minus Patrick, bidding farewell to Sully, interspersed with a montage showing how the Hill brothers have learned from the achievements and mistakes of their predecessors and moved ahead in their lives. Derrick works up the courage to commit wholeheartedly to Erin and her son, while Pete finally decides that he no longer wants to wrestle with the demons he's hiding, indicated in previous episodes. He takes a huge step by joining a veteran support group and begins his healing.
Series creator Kevin Biegel recently wrote a guest editorial where he relayed how his life-threatening experience colored the tone of the show and this week's episode in particular. In truth, he digs into the matter of mental health and seeking help far more eloquently than I ever could, but I will most certainly echo the message relayed this week; it is okay to seek help. As it turns out, I've recently come to the realization that I have just as many friends and family members with mental health issues as I do comrades who I know are suffering from combat-related post traumatic stress (if not more). An acquaintance of mine actually got diagnosed with PTSD recently due to, of all things, an extremely bitter and violent relationship dispute that left him physically, emotionally and financially drained. I admit that at first I scoffed at the news, but when he laid bare all the problems and symptoms he was experiencing such as constant nightmares and extreme anxiety attacks, I realized just how serious it was. I then remembered the words of a veteran that came to my unit to speak on mental health years ago: PTSD is not a rare disease; it is a human condition. Though it has gone by different names, the experience is as old as human civilization, indicated by works as far back as the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus. Pete takes a brave step in deciding to get help, but his reluctance to do so reflects upon just how severely we as a society stigmatize getting it. It's not a defeat. It's not a sign of weakness. It's not a burden to bear. It is the opposite of all of those things. It is recognizing that you need help to move forward. It's realizing you have the strength to reach out. It's learning that You Are Not Alone.
I want to once again thank Kevin Biegel, his production crew and the wonderful cast and guest stars who take a simple sit-com and turn it into something substantially more meaningful, helping others if only in some minute way. I can only hope that as an aspiring writer, I too will one day be able to make an impact on others in such a positive way through my words and ideas. I know for certain that the outstanding community of writers and commenters here at BAD has enriched my life, and I take great joy and comfort in sharing thoughts about this show and all the other great works we have the pleasure of experiencing. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments; as always I look forward to your replies. Peace.