- Guest Stars: Talia Balsam (Vicky Adams), Daniel Bardol
- Story by: David Hume Kennerly and Dennis Foley
- Directed by: Bill L. Norton
Synopsis:Sixteen American journalists lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
While watching a flame-thrower being tested, Wallace informs Anderson and Goldman they are going to the Binh Khe Valley. Wallace had been wounded there at one time and says he is real sentimental about going back. He then springs the news on both men that a reporter is also coming along- telling them they are going to look real good on the evening news.
Later, a Huey comes in, Anderson telling Baker, Ruiz and Taylor it’s carrying a reporter. No one wants to deal with the guy until they see who jumps out of the chopper- a very pretty woman with shoulder length red hair. While Ruiz, Taylor and Baker literally start to drool, Anderson shakes his head, knowing this is going to be nothing but trouble.
Vicky Adams doesn’t waste time. She’s brought a cameraman along and starts interviewing Captain Wallace, asking about the upcoming mission. She sounds disappointed that the operation might not have a lot of action. Anderson, also there with Goldman, tells her if it isn’t enough action, she ought to call in the Marines. Goldman, next to him, does his best to hide his grin. Annoyed with Anderson’s sarcasm, she stops the interview. After Anderson leaves, Wallace less than thrilled with him, she notes to Rusty and Myron that Zeke is very direct. Myron replies that you could always count on Sgt. Anderson to be direct, and that they find it to be a useful tool out in the bush. He then takes his leave of the lady reporter.
Vicky tries to make nice with Anderson, telling him she only wants the truth and for him to give her a fair shake. But he tells her like it is: that he is worried his men will be distracted by a beautiful woman and not pay attention to what they should be doing to stay alive out in the bush.
Wallace, alone in his quarters, is reading a letter. When finished, he picks up a lighter and carefully burns it.
While her cameraman takes some footage of Horn (in sunglasses) burning the latrine barrels, Vicky talks to Goldman. Taylor, Ruiz and Percell come up, asking to just talk to her because it had been so long since any of them had spoken to an American woman. And they just want to hear her voice.
The next morning, the guys get ready, cleaning up and shaving, appearing all neat and pressed. They tease each other, wanting very much to impress the pretty lady reporter.
As they get ready to set out, Vicky is once again interviewing Wallace and asks him what the operation is called. Startled, Wallace then smiles and tells her they will call it Operation Vicky. Anderson starts to check the platoon over and finds they are all spit and polished up. He tells Percell he’s as pretty as a Mississippi sheriff on Election Day. Telling them they can’t go out into the jungle smelling like a house of ill repute on a Saturday night, he then sends them running to get the smell washed off.
After taking a chopper ride out to the LZ, Vicky and her cameraman film the guys as they walk by. Most of them smile and mug for the camera although Goldman and Anderson are less than thrilled. To them it is not a game, and they worry about being out in the bush.
Vicky interviews Wallace who tells her about a boy from Kentucky that he remembered. The kid had just lost both his legs to a mine. Wallace explained how calm the kid was, and that a minute and a half later he was dead. Wallace then tells her that it is up to her and other reporters to show that what these men are doing over in Vietnam means something. And that the people back home need to understand that.
A pair of NVA see the platoon and set up an ambush. But as they get ready, Johnson appears behind them, killing one and wounding another. As they start to interrogate the wounded man, Wallace demands that the camera be turned off. Vicky, in a snit, demands that this is her story and what about the freedom of the press. The Kit Carson scout then tells them that the prisoner is warning that they are surrounded by an entire battalion of NVA.
Anderson and Goldman want everyone out of the area and an immediate extraction for the NVA prisoner. Wallace thinks the NVA is lying. Adams eggs him on, wanting her story and Goldman turns away in disgust. Wallace then takes Anderson and Goldman aside and tries to convince the two men that they need to do this to make a good story. Both men are visibly upset and Zeke finally turns away, angry. Wallace then tells him he wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make good military sense.
Later, Vicky tries to talk to Anderson but he is annoyed and angry. He tells her all that is important to her is getting a good story. She admits it’s important to her. He tells her he is happiest if nothing happens at all while they are out there.
At one point, Wallace decides to take Cook and Baker and recon ahead. Myron isn’t happy but there is little he can do about it. Percell, Johnson and Horn watch, puzzled that the captain is taking a patrol out. Johnson notes that Wallace must want these guys awfully bad. Myron adds, maybe too badly.
While waiting for Wallace, Ruiz, Taylor, Percell, Horn and Johnson talk to Vicky about the way folks back home are treating GIs. She tries to explain their point of view, saying it wasn’t that they were against the men themselves, but rather the war. Percell calls it treason and when Horn also starts to explain, he turns on Horn and tells him that they should not be having this conversation again.
Wallace returns and informs Goldman and Anderson the prisoner was lying and there are no enemy troops in the immediate area. Goldman hopes it means they can go back now. Wallace tells him no, that they are going to track the NVA down.
Later, as they cross a river, Anderson and Goldman try to talk to Wallace in an effort to understand what is going on. But Wallace is determined and convinced they can find and surprise Charlie. Myron and Zeke are not so sure. Zeke warns that Charlie doesn’t stay in the same place, but Wallace brushes him off.
Eventually, the guys cross one at a time on a fallen tree over a ravine. Vicky wants them to play it up for the camera and Anderson tries to hush her until Wallace tells him to relax and lighten up. Rolling his eyes, Anderson then tells the guys to smile so they could be on the TV. The guys continue to cross one at a time, smiling and mugging for the camera as they come over. Goldman, smoking a cigarette, just looks put off as he crosses.
They take a break on the other side and the guys of Third Squad talk to Vicky about why she’s there. She finds a leech on her arm and Ruiz helps remove it. None of them can understand why she’s there when she could be home. She tells them the world is changing and women with it.
Cook shimmies up a palm tree to get a few coconuts for Vicky. Everyone gets into it, teasing the guy who puts on a show while Vicky’s cameraman films it. The fun ends tragically when the boy is shot and crashes down from the tree, dead. Doc Matsuda and Wallace rush over, but there is nothing the medic can do for Cook. Wallace is furious and demands that Matsuda save Cook, but the medic snaps at him and tells Rusty there isn’t anything more he can do but zip him into a body bag. With all the confusion going on, the NVA prisoner bolts, running into the jungle.
Anderson, Taylor and Percell chase after him but are unable to recapture him. Upon returning and telling Wallace this, they decide they need to get out of the area before Charlie finds them. Anderson then realizes that Vicky is filming over Cook’s body and becomes furious. Yelling at her, he then grabs the camera and proceeds to destroy the film. She starts yelling back.
Anderson then wants to know if they are going back to the LZ, but Wallace says no- he hasn’t got a prisoner. At this point tempers flare, Anderson shouting at Wallace that they had a prisoner, Vicky complaining she no longer has a story and Wallace shouting at Zeke about treating the press with respect. Wallace then shouts at everyone to move out.
Back on the move again, Vicky begins to snipe at Zeke, telling him it was a rotten trick he pulled when he ruined her film. Zeke is still simmering over Cook’s needless death. Vicky then accuses Zeke of blaming Cook’s death on her. Anderson makes it clear that he does blame Cook’s death on her, and on Captain Wallace. And that Cook deserved better than the news story they were going to show about him. Vicky tries to tell Anderson that she cares about his men but Anderson tells her that she knows nothing about them. That these men have nothing and have come from nothing and if they are lucky enough to make it home, they will have nothing waiting for them there. He then stops and tells her he’s gonna make it. That one day he is going to drive by a VA cemetery and is going to remember what he did in Vietnam. And he has to know that not one of those headstones is there because of something he did. But could she say the same?
Later, they find a bunker tucked into a hillside. Wallace decides to take Anderson and Third Squad and move through the bamboo in order to flank it. Vicky decides she wants to go with him even though he warns her it could get a little rough. Wallace then leads Third Squad over a stream and through a grove of bamboo, cautiously moving forward. But he steps into a small pit of punji sticks, one going through his boot and foot. At that same time, they are ambushed and he is shot in the shoulder.
They get to cover, finding themselves pinned down on the side of the hill below the bunker. Anderson orders the men to take the news crew back down and to get back to the L-T. As the men retreat, Vicky decides to stay, but she is clearly frightened. Wallace tries to apologize to Anderson, finally realizing he was wrong and that he got them into a real mess. Anderson tells him not to worry about it and there would be plenty of time to fix things up at Ladybird. Wallace, however, makes it clear he is sorry. With Anderson covering, Wallace and Vicky start to retreat down the hill. But Wallace only gets a few feet before he is shot and killed. Both Vicky and Anderson are stunned.
Vicky now starts to go into shock, staring at the dead body of the captain. But Anderson refuses to let her shut down. Telling her he will cover her, he sends her back down the hill as fast as she can move. He launches a grenade up into the bunker and she sets off down the hill. Unfortunately, she gets shot in the leg. Anderson catches up to her and helps her to the nearby stream. She starts to come apart as Anderson patches her leg up. She is horrified and afraid, Wallace’s death very vivid in her mind. New fighting breaks out and Anderson notes the L-T is now in it. She can’t help but start to cry as Anderson tries to keep her together. With her leg now bandaged, Zeke reluctantly tells her to stay put and that she will be safe, before he goes to join Goldman.
Anderson rejoins the men below and shoulders up to Goldman. He then informs Myron that he is in command. Myron stares at him for a moment, stunned with the realization. He then quickly asks if Zeke is all right. They are in a pretty desperate situation and neither man has the opportunity to mourn for their fallen captain. Anderson decides he wants to put an end to all this. Grabbing the kid with the flame-thrower, Anderson goes back up the hill where Wallace was killed. Vicky, who has literally just made it back to Goldman’s men, grabs her cameraman and they follow Anderson back up the ridge. But the kid is killed and Zeke is forced to take the equipment himself and continue to climb the hill to get to the bunker. Vicky and her cameraman watch and film as Anderson makes it to the bunker. In stunned horror, they watch Zeke torch the entire bunker, saving his men.
Back at Ladybird, a memorial service is held in the drizzling rain for the men who were killed, including Captain Wallace. After the service is finished and the men dismissed by Anderson, Third Squad lingers in awkward silence. Vicky asks Zeke if he can ever forgive them for what had happened. Zeke tells her it is over, and explains about Wallace. How the brass was pushing him too hard and that the man was carrying a “Dear John” letter from home. Vicky is only saddened more as she realizes how wrong she was about all these men and what they go through for their country. She tells Zeke she wants to say something good about these men and that she now knows they are not a bunch of monsters and baby killers. She then asks Anderson what he wants when he finally goes home.
Anderson is a bit startled by the question, but he tells her what he wants is to be treated like a human being when he gets home. That they were all going to need someone to talk to when this is all over. He then joins Goldman and the men who have stayed behind.
The men are hurting, not sure how to say goodbye to their captain. Finally, Anderson asks Myron to say a few words. Myron hesitates, clearly at a loss. Haltingly, he speaks of Wallace, that he was a good man and good to all of them. He reminds them of Wallace’s bravery, of his Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. That Wallace was a good soldier and that he cared.
Vicky wraps her story there, filming in front of the memorial for the fallen men.
ToD Advisor’s Episode Notes:
By the time of this episode two issues were of primary concern to the pre-production team: getting more female viewers and controlling production costs. It was hoped that the introduction of another female character, a woman reporter, would boost ratings. There were a lot of reporters in Vietnam, including some women. But writer Steve Smith was the only veteran I know to have ever encountered a reporter of either sex. He drove a male reporter from a helipad to the Division Public Affairs Office, and no words were exchanged.
The character of Captain Wallace had never been written as strongly as it should have been, in my opinion, and actor Kevin Conroy had been limited to some walk-on roles. He was a principle, and was being paid a lot of money and not used. (In fact he was so bored he had taken a second job, sketching tourists in Honolulu, to have something to do every day.) It was inevitable that he should go.
This was one of the episodes that didn’t seem to go right. It was rewritten several times and finally totally rewritten, all for dramatic reasons. The issue of the flamethower was one. Flamethowers look very dramatic in movies, but in reality they are heavy, short-ranged, temperamental devices of value only in attacking fixed fortifications in major assaults. This didn’t happen much in Vietnam. (The flamethrower sequence in the movie “Deer Hunter” is one of the movie’s worst faux pas.) Without special training they are almost as dangerous to the operator as the enemy. No unit would take one along without good reason. We tried to cover this in the script by emphasizing the importance of the mission and that there were sufficent forces in support.
Worth another look:
Frustrated and upset with the entire mission, and certainly with the reporter, Vicky Adams, Anderson turns on her and tells her that he is going to make it. And that one day he is going to drive by a VA cemetery and he would remember what he did in Vietnam. That he has to know that not one of those headstones is there because of something he did. But could she say the same thing?
- Get Ready – The Temptations. As the guys clean up before the mission, this is playing on a radio behind them.
- Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf. As they are flying out to the LZ and as they make their way into the jungle.
- I’m Your Puppet – James and Bobby Purify. As the men cross over a ravine, using a fallen tree as a bridge.
- Bridge over Troubled Water – performed by Aretha Franklin. During the memorial service for Wallace and the other fallen men and as Vicky and Anderson talk directly afterwards.