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It's coming around to the end, folks. The penultimate episode of this season's Enlisted is here, and it's honestly a shame because these last few episodes have really cranked up everything that's good about the show. It also turns out that the episode airing order that had previously created continuity problems ends up working out in the show's favor, adding extra weight to some of the most moving plotlines of the season.
When the crew gets awarded a three day weekend, Randy decides to use the time to undergo Pre-Ranger training* to be all he can be...or rather be all his idol brother is, and maybe a little more. Although Pete is already Ranger qualified, he decides to join his little brother for support, though it serves more to ignite their long-standing competitive spirit. Meanwhile, Derrick decides to take a more leisurely approach to his weekend by spending time with his girlfriend Erin. This doesn’t come without challenges of its own though, as a slew of household repair emergencies require the work of a well-rounded Handyman Of Steel, and CPL Hill is worried that he may not be up to the task.
As SSG and PFC Hill stand ready at the qual-course ripped and rarin’ to go (alongside CSM Cody, who is administering the test and less than pleased to be there), SSG Perez suddenly appears. The boys mistake her arrival as a cheerleader’s show of support, but she is in fact also there for her own Pre-Ranger testing. The times they are a-changing, and Jill is aware of plans to allow females into Ranger schools in the near future, so she’s looking to stay ahead of the game. Pete shrugs her off with a witty jab (though, importantly, not a mean-spirited one), but it is Randy who becomes flummoxed by her presence. It looks like the moment of bonding we saw in the previous episode "General Inspection" really sparked feelings inside of the young lug. Although that episode was actually two episodes prior in the production/in-universe timeline, it plays out better coming to light in this episode since those emotions are still fresh. What really kicks up the turmoil is not Randy’s infatuation, but his simple but effective ruminations on the lovely Jill that hit home for Pete just how much of a catch she really is, bringing back the “will they, won’t they” element touched upon in previous episodes. And between us, it can’t be overstated how easy it is for anyone to have developed a crush on the complete package that is SSG Perez (and kudos to Angelique Cabral for committing to perhaps the sexiest snot-rocket ever displayed onscreen).
Back at Erin’s place, Derrick has been enjoying his movie time get-togethers with his lady friend, but we see that when it comes to random home repairs of appliances, Erin actually calls up her Ex-Husband Brandon Stone to handle the Job. Derrick is overtaken by feelings of crushing inadequacy compared to the perfect supermodel father-of-her child Mr. Fixit set of abs top chef with such a disarming smile and did I mention that body that is Brandon Routh, whom we last saw in the "Homecoming" episode (aside: he really is such a dashing presence…with all the recent DC/Superman talk, it really is such a shame his career didn’t take off after Superman Returns; I think he was definitely the best thing about it). Once again, the episode (dis)order actually helps the story, since their relationship feels “lived in,” adding to the sense of comfort Derrick has grown accustomed to and thus adding to the sense of tension and desperation he feels when he realizes that comfort is threatened. Derrick is in need of some serious help, but with limited resources he musters the closest thing he can to superheroes of his own, using the various and hilarious skills of his Platoon-mates to make a great impression and firmly establish his foothold as the new man of the house.
As I alluded to, the jokes here are in top form, with Pete and Randy’s descent into childlike rivalry (Lap Pasta eating contest!) and the hilarious superhero transformations of the platoon (“…I can get you boner pills…”), but It was especially poignant to have the heartfelt, gutpunch, lesson-learned moments come through on both of the storylines.
The once and future super soldiers SSG and PFC Hill steadily devolve into immature bickering boys as their competiveness and feelings for Jill collide, coming to a head in a combatives pit clash resembling a children’s schoolyard fight. Thankfully, the Sergeant Major snaps the two out of it with a full-blown ass chewing when he makes them realize that instead of a prize to be fought over, she is an outstanding soldier and an invaluable member of the team that needs their support.
There has been much consternation about the recent decisions to open more combat occupations to women**. There is much to argue and many examples of positive and negative actions and consequences on both sides of the debate. My take on the matter is that, generally speaking, if one can fulfill the standards the same, one has earned the right to serve that role. When it comes down to what role is appropriate, it still ultimately becomes a matter of case by case basis. But what has consistently shown to be true across the board is that, if given the opportunity, women throughout history have excelled above and beyond the call of duty in various roles, some making the ultimate sacrifice. I believe the true goal should not be about making blanket gestures for equality, but instead for developing and refining roles and responsibilities that give everyone a chance to achieve their absolute best. Besides the many pilots, drivers and medics who serve on the front lines, Female Engagement Teams present a unique and desperately needed role that only the best and brightest female service members can ever hope to fulfill. The selection for that job is based on requirements directly developed by Special Forces who have applied lessons learned about cultural taboos and high-pressure snap decisions they faced in order to find the women with The Right Stuff. I personally know of some females who would be perfect for the job (and have the support of senior Rangers who feel the same), so it goes without saying that there has been and always will be a need for females in the line of fire who can get the job done. SSG Jill Perez is exemplary of such a woman, and I want to once again express my gratitude to Kevin Beigel and his talented writing crew for having created one of the best positive icons/role models for women I’ve ever seen on television.
On the home front, the other big moving moment comes when, after apparent success in his efforts to score big points with Erin, we discover that all the broken household appliances were actually the doing of young Sam, who sabotaged things around the house with his titular Army Men toys so that he would have more time to spend with his father when he comes to fix his messes. Derrick may have schemes and tricks up his sleeve to compete with Stone’s skills, but he may never be able to truly fulfill a boy’s need for the love of his father. At first, it seems Erin and Derrick come to a cathartic understanding of their relationship and how to proceed for the happiness of the whole family. Soon after, however, in a quiet moment back at the Claymore (quiet aside from Pete and Randy’s drunken reconciliation, that is) Erin drops the heartbreaking bomb that Stone has come up on orders to PCS to Fort Lewis, Washington….and she has decided to follow along with him for the sake of Sam. Call me gullible, but I have to say I didn’t see that one coming, and it was a genuinely, uncharacteristically sad moment, but it managed to also be a shining character moment, as CPL Hill accepts this fate with solemnity and maturity, knowing it is for the best. Having the other Drunken Hills interspersed with the sad moment definitely helped the bittersweet ending go down better as the credits rolled.
It was really great to have two highlight moments for this show in one episode, as well as seeing the structural elements like continuity and callbacks bolster the comedy and earnest emotions, both of which were displayed in top form. It’s gonna be a truly glorious and truly sad day next Sunday as the final episode airs. With the recent quality, I’m fully expecting the show to pull out all the stops and really go for it, yet I’m also a bit mournful knowing that, as far as we can tell, this will be the final journey. Thanks again to everyone who watches for sticking with this show, and a great many thanks to all you readers who have continued to check out my efforts in reviewing it. I hope to hear from you all below and again next week here at Badass Digest as I review the final episode of the season. Peace.
*Real-Life Pre-Ranger Course is actually two weeks long, but this is one of the few military inaccuracies I’m willing to forgive Enlisted of in service of the story.
**Just to quickly clarify about the women in combat roles policy for those who may be confused: the long-standing rule was that women in support/non-combat arms MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) could not be in Combat Arms Units. There is great difference in the role and function of an Infantry or Armor (Tank) unit compared to a Supply or Transportation unit. However, every standard unit in the Army shares the same basic hierarchal structure that includes a headquarters unit filled with all types of non-combat related positions. The change essentially means that, for example, a female Intelligence or Signal officer can now serve in and deploy with the headquarters of a Field Artillery or Cavalry unit.