- Story by Rick Husky, Dennis Cooper, Steven Phillip Smith
- Directed by Bradford May
- Guest Stars: Betsy Brantley (Dr. Jennifer Seymour), Andrew Masset (Jacques Fournier), John Shepherd (Specialist Taft), James McIntire, Louie Bonanno, Dierk Torsek, Michael Paul Chan, John DeMita (Lt Henry Driscoll), Raymond Ma (Tsung), Thom Richardson, Jr (deserter in Cholon)
Lt Henry Driscoll, the Army’s PR officer at MACV introduces himself and says that he has a brief statement. There are several reporters in the room, including Alex Devlin and a reporter for a French newspaper, Jacques Fournier. All of them have microphones and/or notepads as they listen to Driscoll’s statement. He announces that elements of the First Infantry Division continue successful reconnaissance and force operations near An Loc. Numerous weapons were captured along with some ammunition and documents. He adds that the enemy body count was seventy-six and American casualties were light. He then asks if there are questions.
Among those vying for the chance to ask first, Driscoll picks Alex who then boldly states that isn’t it true that American troops are crossing the border into Cambodia. Driscoll tells them absolutely not. Fournier speaks up, stating that he had just returned from the Central Highlands and that he knew for a fact that helicopter pilots were firing rockets over the Chu Pong Massif into Cambodia.
Annoyed, Driscoll sharply corrects him by informing him that it is totally opposed to policy. When Fournier presses, Driscoll cuts him off and tells all the reporters there’s no other news and leaves, clearly annoyed. Exasperated, Alex asks Fournier if it’s her or is the truth more elusive every week? Fournier replies as he turns away that the truth is something the American generals do not want to face. Alex asks, like the French in 1954? He smiles and looks back at her, adding that he hopes the Americans’ fate is not the same as the French.
Several Hueys circle in over the jungle before landing and letting off Goldman’s men. Once in the jungle Goldman and Anderson tell Johnson and Percell to get the men to fan out and look for any signs of activity and then to put the sensors out. They are only a few klicks from the Cambodian border.
Percell wants to know if they get into a fight they’d be allowed to finish it. Goldman reminds him as long as it takes place in the Republic of South Vietnam and that he knows the rules. Johnson grumbles that they’re rules that Charlie don’t play by. Goldman states those are the rules of the United States government but Percell cuts him off, saying that you would think their first rule is protecting their soldiers’ lives. Anderson cuts him off, telling him to let it go but Percell’s got his back up and mouths off the phrase “Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.” Goldman understands his frustration but tells them it’s time to get it done and they move out.
With the platoon fanned out Anderson kneels down next to two of his men, Taft and a newbie nicknamed Short Round. They’ve found sandal prints, and Short Round asks if they just walk right in. Taft teases him, telling him that sometimes they just float in, only setting down to answer calls of nature. The platoon moves on slowly, carefully moving through the jungle with Johnson at point until they are ambushed by several VC.
Pinned down in the firefight, Anderson tosses a grenade and Goldman’s men push the VC back who then take off. Goldman orders Third Squad to chase, but watch for booby traps. They set off after the retreating VC and the VC still fight as they retreat, tossing grenades back at Third Squad and inflicting casualties.
The remaining VC reach the river and splash across, Third Squad right behind them, firing. Taft and Percell run right into the river before going down on a knee and firing after the fleeing VC. Goldman orders a cease fire, then orders Taft and Percell back to the river bank. Frustrated, Percell goes up to Goldman, asking if they’re just going to let the VC go. Goldman tells him he doesn’t like it but the other side of the river is Cambodia. Taft argues that it’s the enemy over there. Percell is furious, saying it’s a damn shame they can’t go over there after them. After they leave, the VC will come back and take over the place. Goldman reminds him that he has his orders.
Anderson, reloading his shotgun as he listens to Percell and Taft shout at Goldman, reminds Percell to calm down and use his head. If they go over there and get in trouble, there’ll be no one to bail them out, no artillery, no air strike, no John J. McKay and his chopper. Goldman adds that if Percell gets killed over there, he’s listed as MIA. The United States does NOT go into Cambodia. He then walks away from the frustrated men.
Later Percell, Taft and Short Round ease their way through some swamp. Short Round is nervous, saying the VC could just reach out and kill them with a knife. Percell shushes him and tells him he needs to learn to use his ears and nose.
The three continue to push on through the jungle until they come upon a path. Percell notes it’s just what they’re looking for and instructs Taft and Short Round to set up the sensors. Percell goes back to hook up with the main body. He leaves the two men, Taft telling Short Round that it looks like a well used path. He shows Short Round the sensor and tells him that hopefully it will pick up on any movement. Then they could call in some artillery for a big surprise.
Short Round nervously watches the jungle and Taft asks if he’s getting all this. Short Round tells him he is, and it’s stuff he’ll need once he’s through college and gets a job. Taft asks if it’s for setting out sensors and what kind of work is that? Smiling, Short Round tells him he’s going to be a school teacher. Nudging him, Taft tells him he shouldn’t go from one war to another. He then tells Short Round to go about 40 meters down the path and set up another one while he finishes this one.
He watches Short Round disappear down the path, smiling and remarking to himself about new guys as he finishes setting up the sensor. He just gets it set up and hidden when he hears an explosion and then a scream from the direction he’d sent Short Round. Horrified, he takes off down the path.
When he finds Short Round, it’s horrific. The newbie’s been blown in half, but is still alive, screaming for help. Taft tries to calm him down, shouting for a medic. Short Round begs, he doesn’t want Taft to leave him, then he wants Taft to kill him. He screams and begs and Taft, so shocked and horrified by what happened to his buddy, pulls his pistol. He promises he’ll find who did this to him, every one of them and as Short Round continues to beg, Taft kills him.
The rest of the platoon comes back, led by Danny, who finds Short Round first, stunned by what he sees. Taylor and Anderson come up behind him as he tells them Short Round was cut in half. Anderson notes it’s a spring loaded mine that went off at waist level. He tells them to get the boy onto a poncho as Goldman and the others file in behind. Goldman is shocked when he sees what happened, asking what the hell? The rest of the men can only stare. Goldman then asks where Taft is, realizing he’s not there. He glances around, trying to catch his breath and again demands to know where Taft is.
Taft has returned to the river, out of his mind with shock and grief, his face smeared with tears. With a final look behind him, he charges across the river and into the jungle in search of the VC they’d chased there earlier that day.
There are several VC camped out nearby, on the Cambodian side of the river. They feel secure, knowing the Americans won’t come after them. They laugh and relax, not realizing that Taft has found them. One VC steps away from the others to take a leak on a nearby tree and Taft sees him. Unsheathing his knife, his hand covered in Short Round’s blood, he throws it, sinking it into the back of the VC. As the others see what’s happening, he tosses a grenade into the middle of them. He methodically kills those who survive and try to flee, giving no quarter.
As Third Squad hears the gunfire, everyone freezes. Anderson tells Goldman that it’s an M16 and that it looks like they found Taft. They’re at the river, the border to Cambodia. Goldman swears, knowing what that means. Anderson wants to know if they’re going in after Taft. Goldman tells him they can’t cross that river, but he’s clearly torn because he knows Taft is over there.
A lone surviving VC crouches before Taft, begging for his life in Vietnamese. Taft is out of his mind; he sees only Short Round. There is no mercy as he kills the remaining VC.
Third Squad stands at the river, looking across. Anderson reminds Goldman that it’s their man over there and they can’t leave him hanging. Ruiz adds that maybe it’s the wrong river so maybe it’s okay. Taylor speaks up, telling Goldman he could go back a ways and not see them go after Taft.
Goldman makes the decision, saying that they aren’t leaving their man and he isn’t going back. Anderson orders Johnson to take point, that they needed to get this done as quick as they can. As Taylor gives Percell a shocked look, Third Squad crosses the river into Cambodia.
Taft still stands over the VC he’d shot as Goldman carefully comes up to him and gently puts his hand on his shoulder. He asks if Taft is okay. Behind Goldman, the rest of the squad stands watch. Taft says nothing, only nods, not looking at anyone but the dead VC around him. Goldman looks at the carnage and tells Taft that he thinks he got some. He still has his hand on Taft’s shoulder as he looks at him.
Taft asks Goldman if he’d seen Short Round and, hesitating, Goldman tells him he saw him. He then gently urges Taft to come with them.
Back at Tan Son Nhut, Third Squad takes what’s left of Short Round off the Huey they came in on. Taft doesn’t want him treated like so much laundry but Anderson tells him to take it easy, that they’ll take good care of Short Round. Taft tells him it don’t mean nuthin’ but Anderson tells him it means a lot. Then he asks where Taft is going.
Taft tells him he’s going to go secure his gear, clean his weapon and get ready for another day. That you can’t let something like this slow you down. Anderson tells him that it’s gotta slow you down sooner or later. He then tells Taft to come with him, he wants Taft to meet someone. When Taft resists, asking about Short Round, Anderson tells him that Short Round would want him to meet Anderson’s friend. Taft follows, but stops long enough to see the rest of the squad carefully tending to Short Round. He apologizes to Short Round before finally following Anderson.
The rest of the men, including Goldman, take care of Short Round.
Myron and Alex walk down a street in Saigon, Myron with his arm around Alex’s shoulders. She tells him that she respects that he can’t tell her about parts of his missions but he replies that she keeps asking him anyway. She retorts that she’s not asking specifics, but she wants his opinion on the rules of engagement and about American troops not being allowed to cross into Cambodia.
Myron tells her that he can’t answer questions that are political. But if she wants his opinion as a soldier, he thinks the policy is insane. They keep sending them into combat with their hands tied and they’re losing.
Alex thanks him and he swings her around to face him. She tells him that as soon as she finishes this interview, the rest of the day is theirs. Myron pulls her close and gives her a kiss. She breaks it, telling him no more war, she promises, then leads him into a nearby restaurant.
It’s a Beautiful Morning plays on the PA system back at Tan Son Nhut as Taylor and Percell, all cleaned up, find Johnson and Ruiz doing KP outside the showers. Taylor teases them, calling them ladies and asking if they need anything. Percell adds they can get something for dishpan hands. Johnson tells them they’re just gonna get drunk and miss curfew. Taylor answers they ain’t gonna do that. They’re only going to help McKay transport something. Ruiz grumbles that he don’t believe that McKay ain’t gonna stop off at Mama-san’s. Percell tells Johnson and Ruiz that if McKay does, he and Taylor will just have to go in with him. He is, after all, an officer! Johnson and Ruiz splash soap at them as Taylor and Percell tell them to enjoy themselves. As they leave, Johnson and Ruiz agree in unison that their buddies are going to get drunk.
As Taylor and Percell walk away, Taylor asks Percell if McKay will stop at Mama-san’s. Percell tells him if not, they’d have to sneak off. The French reporter, Fournier stops them and introduces himself, telling them he’s a correspondent for La Cite. As the two soldiers stare at him, Fournier tells them it’s a newspaper in Paris. He asks if he can talk to them about yesterday’s mission.
Taylor and Percell brush by him, but he holds them up, telling them he gives his word of honor and he’d only write the truth. He asks if they want their side told and Percell, with a glance to Taylor, asks, their side of what? Fournier tells them it’s about American troops crossing the border into Cambodia. Taylor and Percell give him a cold look and Percell asks where he got that stuff.
Fournier tells him that he doesn’t judge them. That the enemy kills their friends, runs away, who could blame them for following? Perhaps if the world were to hear it from them, they would understand. Disgusted, Percell tells him that no one’s gonna understand unless they’ve been there. Taylor tells Percell it sounds like a con. As they push by Fournier, he takes another dig, saying that he thought the American soldier was allowed to think for himself, but apparently he was wrong. Percell gets in his face, asking the reporter where he gets the attitude. Fournier asks if Percell plans to end the discussion with violence; after all, that’s the American way. Danny laughs sarcastically and says that someone needs to set this guy straight about America. Taylor nudges Danny away but as they leave, Fournier tells them he’ll be at the Golden Dragon later, that he’d buy them a drink and they could tell him about their country. Taylor and Percell continue to walk away.
At the infirmary, Dr. Seymour sedates Taft. She tells him it’s to help him rest, and that it’s the most important thing he can do right now. He tells her he’d never spoken to a headshrinker before and he never thought he’d have to. He asks if she thinks he’s crazy. She gently tells him no, but that he’s been through a terrible shock. Nerves need to heal just like broken bones and sometimes talk is a cure. Taft has no idea what they’d talk about but she tells him he doesn’t have to say anything right then. Anderson, sitting on a bed behind them, tells Taft to just get some sleep. He encourages Taft to lie down. Jennifer promises that they will do everything they can to help him before she and Zeke leave. Once out of earshot, she tells Zeke Taft might sleep for 24 hours. Zeke adds he might want to sleep forever.
Alex, Myron and a businessman named Ben Paul sit at a bar, Alex between the two men. The place is crowded, music playing in the background. Paul apologizes to Alex, saying he’s heading back to DC tonight and that his employers insisted on giving him a party. She tells him it’s not a problem. He insists she call him Ben. Myron sits behind her less than pleased with the situation.
Alex tells Paul that she’s wanted to do a story on the American businessman in Vietnam for a while now and that it must be a strange situation. Paul tells her that all war is terrible, but that this one has really helped his company. He doesn’t bother to hide his glee as he tells her that they just signed a fifteen million dollar contract for unloading and storage facilities at Cam Ranh Bay. They had engineers and they’d be pouring concrete in sixty days. He grins at her as he sips his drink.
Alex notes that in a way, he must be glad that there’s a war going on. Paul tells her he can’t deny that it’s been a great opportunity. He points at Goldman and says that soldiers need war, too. Goldman looks at him for a long moment, then asks if that’s what they need. Alex knows Myron’s irritated as she asks Paul how long he’s been working on government contracts. Myron looks at Paul with barely contained annoyance.
Outside, McKay slowly drives a jeep through the crowded Saigon streets with Percell and Taylor riding with him. Taylor wants to know why he needs a TV antenna. McKay tells him that he wants to get Hong Kong and Bangkok and that Armed Forces TV is a little too tame for him. Percell sulks in the seat next to Johnny and McKay asks why he’s got such a stone face. Taylor tells him that Danny got into an argument with a French reporter. Danny adds that he doesn’t understand why they let people like that on the base. McKay tells him to forget it, that they can’t expect much from a guy who eats snails and frog’s legs.
Back at the restaurant, Alex continues to interview Ben Paul who answers her questions glibly, oblivious to the glowering lieutenant with her. Paul tells her that there are a lot of small to medium companies like his, just scratching by on urban renewal contracts. The war is like oxygen to them. He then glances up at Myron, trying to be contrite as he notes that Myron’s point of view must be a lot different and that he’s just trying to answer Alex’s questions. Myron tries to contain his indignation as he tells Paul it’s no problem.
Paul doesn’t see the warning signs as he smiles and tells Myron that all this talk of war and business must not mean much to someone like Myron who’s been in combat. He can’t help himself as he tells Myron that he sometimes wonders what it must be like out in those jungles and that he just can’t get a handle on it. Now all his attention is focused on Myron as he asks, what’s it like?
He doesn’t realize he’s pushed all of Myron’s buttons, who stares at him with frigid anger. Alex tries to steer the conversation back to her interview but Myron’s had enough. He tells her to wait, that Mr. Paul is entitled to an answer.
Myron gives it a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. Paul wants to know what it’s like? Myron tells him there was yesterday, for instance. That he had this fresh faced kid, who could have been a brain surgeon or a bank robber, but he tripped a mine. There’s raw pain in Myron’s voice as he explains how Short Round was cut in half, his legs going one way and his body going another. Paul is horrified, only now realizing he’s overstepped his bounds but Myron won’t let him off that easy. He tells Paul he hasn’t heard the fun part. That Short Round wasn’t dead and that he hurt so bad he asked one of his buddies to put a bullet in him. Myron then glares at Paul in indignation and pain. Alex reaches over, trying to stop him but when she touches him, Myron viciously jerks free of her hand. He then asks if that’s what Paul wanted to hear.
Paul is nothing short of shocked and horrified. But Myron isn’t done yet. He asks if maybe Paul wants to hear how the VC skin his men alive sometimes. Alex and Paul stare at him. Frustrated and furious, he shoves off his chair telling Paul to forget it and to have a good day as he gives Alex a look and then leaves the bar. Alex apologizes and excuses herself, chasing after Myron and leaving a stunned Paul behind.
McKay pulls up outside a small shop and knocks on the door. A Vietnamese comes to the door and Johnny asks if he remembers him. The shopkeeper does but he tells Johnny that his antenna is not ready yet, that the truck had broken down. He tells Johnny to come back in four hours and he’d have it. He goes back into his shop, assuring Johnny he’ll have it in four hours.
Johnny tells Percell and Taylor to meet him back there at seventeen hundred hours and that he hopes they can keep themselves entertained until then. He climbs in the jeep as Taylor and Percell get out. Taylor wants to know where Johnny’s going and Johnny laughingly tells him that there are ladies all over town that need his affection. He drives off, leaving Percell and Taylor standing in the street. Taylor is pleased with the situation and tells Danny they need to find their own wine and women. But Danny wants to go to the Golden Dragon. Marcus isn’t pleased, telling him to forget about Fournier but Danny wants to set him straight about a couple of things. Then he’s willing to go anywhere Marcus wants to.
Taft, muttering Short Round’s name, wakes up. He wanders off the ward and is leaving when an orderly catches him, telling him he can’t leave dressed the way he is. Taft tells him he’ll go around him or through him, then shoves the guy hard into the wall and leaves.
At the Golden Dragon there’s a stripper pole dancing to In the Midnight Hour. Danny gets into it with Fournier, telling the reporter he only wants to see things his way. Fournier tells him that the same thing is happening to them that happened to the French in ’54. They’re fighting a losing battle. Percell is adamant that they aren’t losing; look at Tet where they kicked “Charlie Ho’s” butt. But Fournier argues that it means that the North Vietnamese are a viable fighting force, not a rabble as the generals would have them believe. Danny complains that they could win this war if they would let them fight it.
Fournier points out that the American government is abandoning them, that President Johnson just turned down Westmoreland’s request for two hundred fifty thousand more troops. Taylor remarks that that they’ll get one hundred fifty instead but Fournier tells him they will get none as the people have turned on Johnson. There’s a new Gallup poll that shows that sixty-eight thousand Americans feel the war is either standing still or being lost. The press has turned against them, Time, Newsweek, even Walter Cronkite. He adds quietly that black soldiers are starting to desert as they realize they’re being used to fight a white man’s war. Even Muhammad Ali refused the draft.
Taylor remarks that no one’s deserted, they’re still there. Fournier, very sure of himself, tells them he can show them black deserters in Cholon. Would Taylor and Percell come with him? Percell snorts and tells Fournier that Cholon is like Cambodia and that it’s off limits. Fournier can’t resist the chance to push Percell and taunts him with the fact that they’re brave enough to go into Cambodia but not Cholon. Danny slides a look at Taylor who can only look back at him.
Myron and Alex walk through the streets of Saigon as Myron tells Alex exactly what he thinks of Paul. That the guy acts like he’s in Baltimore, not Vietnam. He adds that he’s sure that Paul is a nice guy with a nice wife, nice kids, nice dog and a station wagon but he doesn’t care about what’s going on in Vietnam. Alex tries to placate Myron, telling him that Paul doesn’t see the war like Myron, that he gets his news from the TV, sanitized. Myron doesn’t care, he tells Alex he’d like to take a guy like Paul and stick his face in a sucking chest wound. That people should have to know about what happens to the kids they send over here. Because that’s what Short Round was, just a kid.
Alex says she knows, and that she tries to tell them about that, all of it. Myron, annoyed, tells her that he doesn’t care about all of it, he cares about the guys. “And I don’t?” Alex wants to know. Myron makes it clear that if she did, she wouldn’t write articles that cause guys grief or jeopardize their careers. Alex, now on her high horse, tells Myron that she couldn’t respect herself if she ignored the truth.
Myron snaps at her that he isn’t talking about respect, he’s talking about judgment. That he didn’t know about her job, but decisions in his aren’t black and white. Everything depends on the circumstances, everything is a judgment call. Alex doesn’t care as she reminds Myron that international law is black and white and so is their country’s foreign policy. Still the reporter, still hoping for the chance that Myron will confirm what she already suspects, she tells Myron that she doesn’t feel his men would suffer recriminations if they had gone into Cambodia. They stop, looking at each other and she puts it out there, asking if they were there.
Myron just looks at her and says that he can’t tell her that. He reminds her that they didn’t go anywhere alone, that he was with them.
Zeke is with Jennifer at her quarters. She tells Zeke she just doesn’t feel right about having a day off. Zeke reminds her that everyone’s entitled to a day off, even her. She knows but she asks, what about Taft? She hates to leave the new ones. Zeke tells her she’ll see him that afternoon and that the boy’s probably gonna sleep all day anyway. She apologizes in the face of his frustration, telling him that all doctors make the mistake of thinking they’re indispensable.
Zeke tells her she is indispensable and that if she burns out, it’ll be bad news for all of them. Jennifer grins at him and teases, saying isn’t he getting psychological? He looks a bit embarrassed and tells her it’s the company he’s been keeping. She says that they should go have some fun and then there’s a knock on the door. The orderly that Taft shoved past earlier is there, telling her that Taft has gotten out of the dispensary and can’t be found.
Fournier takes Percell and Taylor into Cholon. Percell wants Fournier to show him the deserters so they can get the hell back out of there. Fournier sees a tall black man in the marketplace and points him out to Percell and Taylor, noting that he believes that is one of the deserters he was referring to. Taylor pushes past both of them and approaches the man, calling him “Brother.” But the deserter is hostile and demands to know what Taylor wants. Taylor wants to know what’s going on. The deserter informs Taylor that he don’t talk to his kind no more, turning his back on Marcus and walking away.
Fournier comments that the man is a little dark for Vietnamese and Taylor agrees. Percell is disgusted, telling Taylor that Fournier is wasting their time and they should get out of there. But then he gets in Fournier’s face, indignant. He tells Fournier that what steams him is Fournier’s superior attitude. He wants to know what the hell the French did while they were over here. Fournier has no answer for him as Danny stalks away.
The MPs surround the ammo dump at Tan Son Nhut. A lieutenant, taking a sniper rifle, grumbles about another damn crazy and why didn’t they shoot them out in the field instead of bringing them back to the base? Jennifer and Zeke rush up, Jennifer telling the lieutenant that it’s her patient in there. He’s not impressed, informing her that Taft was her patient but now he has several grenades and is sitting in the middle of two hundred tons of explosives. That made Taft his problem. He adds that the next time that Taft lifts up his head, he’s gonna pop him.
Jennifer pleads, telling the MP lieutenant that he can’t kill him, that Taft is traumatized and she wants to talk to him. The lieutenant doesn’t care, telling her he doesn’t understand that stuff. All he knows that if Taft torches the dump, some lives and a lot of money go up in smoke.
Anderson speaks up, reminding the lieutenant that Taft is an American GI in there. But the lieutenant pulls rank, gets in Zeke’s face and yells at him that it isn’t Zeke’s business and to butt out, making it an order. Zeke knows how the system works and he backs down politely. He walks behind the officer and as Jennifer distracts him, Zeke slips past him into the ammo dump, Jennifer watching him as he goes. She then tells the lieutenant she can’t stand by and let him do this. Shouting out to Taft, she tells him she’s coming in. The lieutenant tells her not to be stupid but she doesn’t listen and goes in.
Zeke works his way around the dump until he finds Taft sitting right in the middle, barefoot and holding a grenade in his hands. He warns Zeke to stay away. Zeke tries to calm him down, telling him it’s just him and he wants to help. Taft yells at him to leave him alone and then Jennifer appears. Agitated, Taft wants to know what the hell’s going on. Zeke assures him that Jennifer is on his side. He then pleads with Jennifer to get out of there but she won’t go, telling Zeke that Taft is her responsibility.
Zeke tells her that Taft has so many battles going on in his head that he doesn’t know what he’s gonna do next, and that Zeke doesn’t know either. He tells her to get out of there now but she speaks over him, telling him that Taft is her patient and she’s not leaving. She turns her attention to Taft, asking him to come back to the dispensary with her. He refuses, telling her there are too many people in there. Zeke tells him that he can’t stay there, that the MPs will kill him.
Taft tells him that’s fine. That maybe he’d be alright dying. Zeke says that nobody is gonna die. Taft tells him he’s wrong and that he’s beginning to understand how Short Round felt. He then pulls the pin on the grenade. He looks at them, holding the grenade and tells Zeke and Jennifer that dying’s the only way to escape the pain. Zeke warns him to take it real easy with the grenade.
Taylor, Percell and Fournier work their way through the crowded streets of Cholon when they find themselves confronted by a VC who holds a pistol on them. Percell asks if Fournier knows him and the reporter tells him no. The VC yells at Fournier to get out. They stare for a long moment then Taylor tells Fournier he’d better do it. Fournier hesitates, starting to object but the VC yells “Didi mau!” and he eases away, apologizing to Taylor and Percell.
Taft passes the grenade from hand to hand. He’s shaking, his hands sweaty as he rubs his palms on his fatigues. Zeke and Jennifer sit and watch him. Zeke reminds him to take it easy. Jennifer pleads with him to give it up. Taft tells her the only thing we have to do after we’re born is die, and that he thinks he’s ready for that. The MP lieutenant shouts that there’ll be no shooting, he gives his word. But he’s looking down the scope, muttering that Taft just needs to show himself and they can all go home.
Taft notes that maybe he should let the MPs do it for him, but that would be too easy. He starts to shout that one shot and it would be done and forgotten! But if he were to take the ammo dump up with him, then there would be some talk and people would understand.
Jennifer tells him that she doesn’t understand, that she wants Taft to explain. He shouts at her that it ain’t right. That the enemy comes in from Cambodia and kills us and that we can’t go back and get them! Zeke reminds him that he went back, he got them. Agonized, Taft tells him that he had to kill Short Round first. That what he did was never gonna leave him.
Zeke tells him he’s gonna have to be brave and that Dr Seymour will help him if he lets her. Irrational, Taft screams at Anderson, tells him he saw Short Round, saw what that mine did to him. Short Round was hurting so bad. He kept thinking Short Round would pass out but he just kept screaming. That maybe he had another thirty seconds, but it would have been like an eternity with that pain. Short Round wanted him to end it! Taft thought he did. Then he breaks, asking what did he do? Jennifer rushes up to him, telling him he had compassion, that he suffered with his friend. She takes one of his hands that’re holding the grenade.
Ruiz and Johnson return to their barracks, grumbling about having KP duty when McKay finds them. He tells them he’s looking for Percell and Taylor and wants to know if they’ve seen them. Johnson says that they were with Johnny, but Johnny tells him they got separated. He realizes that’s not good. Fournier jumps out of a jeep then, telling them that their friends are in trouble in Cholon, that the VC have them. As Johnson and Ruiz duck inside the barracks to grab weapons, Johnny and Fournier grab an empty jeep. Johnny demands to know why they’re in Cholon and Fournier tells him he was trying to prove a point. They need to get to them in a hurry. Johnny pulls around as Ruiz and Johnson come racing back out with rifles, handing one to Johnny who wants to know where Anderson is. Jumping in the back with Johnson, Ruiz tells Johnny it’s Anderson’s day off and he’s probably in town. Johnny adds that he’s sure Goldman is, too and he thinks he knows where as they drive off in a rush.
In a back alley in Cholon, Percell is worked over pretty good by the VC. He’s got company now, another one holding a weapon on them. The VC turns to Taylor and sarcastically asks if Taylor likes Cholon. Taylor, with just as much sarcasm, tells him it’s a real garden spot, a lot like New Jersey. The VC puts a pistol under his chin, warning him not to make fun. Other soul brothers liked it there. Taylor tells him that they may all look alike, but they didn’t all think alike.
Percell speaks up, telling the VC they didn’t want any trouble, just let them go. The VC viciously backhands him, telling Danny he’s dead, calling him honky. He turns back to Taylor, grinning, telling him he should stay, he could make a good life there. Taylor glances at Danny and then tells the VC he couldn’t do that, because if he did, he’d never get to see the Supremes again or Denny McLain pitch for the Tigers. Besides, he was a capitalist. The VC shoves him hard to the wall next to Percell, pointing his weapon at them and yells that Taylor is dead.
Taylor tells him to hold on, that money’s the name of the game, right? He fishes out a wad from his shirt pocket and hands it over, saying they were just gonna spend it on women anyway. He pulls more out of his pants pocket, saying that they were going to do some drinking and partying, too. Taylor then adds that what he gave him is nothing, he has a special stash as he reaches for his right ankle. He pulls a small pistol and shoots one of the guards as Danny tackles the lead VC. Taylor then shoots the second guard. The two bolt into the busy street, Percell asking Taylor when he started carrying the pistol. Taylor tells him it was his second year in high school. They have no idea where they’re going but keep running.
Alex and Myron are slow dancing and kissing in her room. She’s wearing only his fatigue shirt. Johnny pounds on her door, calling for Myron. Irritated, Myron stalks to the door and yanks it open, telling Johnny this had better be real good. He finds Johnny and Fournier, both men glancing at Alex before Johnny tells Myron that Taylor and Percell are in trouble. Myron wants to know what’s wrong and Fournier tells him that he took them to Cholon to prove a point and that he’s sorry. Johnny tells him that they ran into VC and that they had Goldman’s men. Telling them he’ll be right there, Myron prepares to leave. Alex comes over, saying that it was foolish that they could maybe forget the war for a few minutes. He gives her a final kiss as she strips off his shirt and hands it to him as he goes out the door.
The VC leader and one of his wounded guards now stalk the streets, furious and looking for Taylor and Percell. They’re terribly lost and duck behind a stand of produce crates. Taylor tells Percell they aren’t ever going to get out of there. Danny agrees, saying he doesn’t know north from south, east from west. They can hear the VC shout for them as they go down the street searching for them.
As the VC close in on them, they make a break, using a car as a shield as Taylor shoots and they run. They fetch up against a wall after a few minutes, Percell pointing out a yellow and red sign on the wall, saying they should give it a try. Taylor says they’ll have to, as he’s out of ammo. They duck in the door and turn, finding a frightened young Vietnamese mother and three children. Terrified, she gathers the children to her as Taylor holds up his hands with the small pistol.
McKay drives a jeep through the countryside as Goldman yells at Fournier, demanding to know what the reporter thought he would accomplish by taking his men down there. Fournier tells Goldman he has strong feelings about the war and he thought Percell and Taylor should see what’s really going on. Goldman reminds him that they see it every day and whose side is Fournier on, anyway? Fournier tells him that the South Vietnamese regime is corrupt and oppressive and there’s some justice on the Viet Cong side. Ruiz tells him not to talk that kind of bull.
When Fournier starts to argue, Myron cuts him off, telling him he’d love to discuss the politics some time, maybe when they’re back in the States in front of a fire. But right now his men are about to be killed by the VC, and if they succeed, Fournier’s in a world of hurt.
Back at the ammo dump, Zeke tells Taft they need to make a decision. Taft replies that he’s already got it all figured out. Zeke and Seymour need to go and then he’d get on with it. Zeke tells him he’s got a problem with that as Taft’s real important to Dr Seymour and she won’t leave him. And Zeke sure as hell isn’t gonna leave her. Taft shouts that they’ll all go up. Jennifer tries to reach him, asking him to listen to her. She explains that he’s in a state of emotional shock and his ability to reason is temporarily shorted out. He insists he’s not crazy and that he knows what he’s doing! She agrees he’s not crazy but he’s hurting, badly. What he did to Short Round was logical, he knew he had no choice in killing Short Round, that he’d do it again. He wanted to kill Short Round’s pain, but in doing so, he took it on himself and it’s crushing him.
Crying now, Taft tells her if he could get away, maybe go to Cholon, he’d be alright. But now Zeke joins her, getting on his knees in front of Taft. He tells him that they’d hunt Taft forever if he ran. Jennifer tells him he’d still have to deal with the same demons, but by himself, and he doesn’t have to do that. She begs him to come back with her. Zeke holds up his hand to take the grenade and Taft gives it to him. Taft falls apart, sobbing and Jennifer pulls him into her arms as he weeps. She promises she’ll help him and won’t let them hurt him as Zeke puts the pin back in the grenade.
At the entrance to the ammo dump, there are a half dozen heavily armed MPs waiting for a shot at Taft. Anderson shouts for them to hold their fire, they’re coming out. He tells the lieutenant to be real cool and to call off his men as Jennifer assures Taft no one will harm him. Furious, the lieutenant orders his men to back off but to put the cuffs on Taft. Defiant, Jennifer snaps that Taft is coming back to the dispensary with her and he isn’t going in handcuffs. The lieutenant gives her a look, stating they’d see about that but as he orders his men to take Taft, Jennifer shouts him down. She tells him she appreciates how seriously he takes his job but all Taft did was enter an unauthorized area, and she’s taking him with her. She then leads Taft away, Zeke following in her wake.
In the hootch where Taylor and Percell hide, the mama-san brings Taylor some tea. He’s seated at a table with Percell, who’s beat up and exhausted. Taylor asks what he thinks, if they should make a run for it. Danny doesn’t much care for the idea. He tells Taylor he’s tired, it’s dark, they’re lost and that Charlie’s in the street. He thinks they should try to stay there until morning. He then apologizes to Marcus about getting him into the entire mess to begin with. Taylor tells him if it weren’t Danny getting him into trouble here, it’d be Marcus getting Danny into trouble somewhere else. At least Danny is trying to make some sense of the war.
Danny replies that the more sense he tries to make of it, the less sense it makes. Charlie gets to go anywhere he wants but if they cross the boarder, everyone acts as if they committed a capital crime. He’s aggravated, telling Marcus it’s a double standard and he’s got a problem with it. Taylor says that no wonder the brothers are deserting. They can’t fight to win over here and they ain’t got nothing going on back in the world.
Danny wants to know what makes Marcus different. Marcus says he doesn’t know but that he guesses he still believes. Danny asks, in what we’re doing over here? Marcus tells him that the brothers who desert, they’ll live like rats in a hole. At least back home he still has a chance. Both men then hear a commotion out in the street. The mama-san is terrified, hugging her three children to her as she watches in fear. Taylor gets up and carefully peeks out the door. He sees the two VC who have been hunting them down interrogating and roughing up the locals in search of them. He realizes they’re coming and tells Danny they have to get out of there.
As they make a run for the back of the hootch, the two VC crash the door and storm in. Danny goes out the window, calling for Marcus. He tries to get Marcus out but the VC grab him. Everyone struggles, Marcus yelling at Danny to save himself before he’s dragged back in. Danny bolts, the wounded VC shooting after him.
In the busy streets, Goldman and the others weave their jeep through the crowd when they hear the gunfire. They recognize it for .30 caliber and McKay steers in the direction of the shots.
Back inside the hootch, Taylor gets worked over hard by the VC.
Fournier recognizes the street and everyone gets out of the jeep just as Percell comes running up from behind, shouting that they have Taylor. He points to the hootch as McKay tosses him a rifle and everyone sets up around the jeep, using it as a barrier.
Taylor is getting the hell beat out of him but he makes a last effort to break free, shoving the VC aside and crashing through the door. He spills into the street right in front of Goldman and the others, yelling for them to hold their fire. As he scrambles to them for protection, Ruiz shoves his pistol at him. Taylor tells Goldman there’s a family in there and not to fire.
The VC come out, using the terrified mama-san and her young children as shields. It’s a standoff, the VC aiming at the Americans and Goldman and his men aiming back at them. Ruiz asks Goldman what they’re going to do. Taylor gets to his feet and tells them they’re going to take the VC down. Goldman sees the frightened children and tells everyone to take it easy. Danny snaps that they need to at least take them prisoner.
Fournier, horrified, shouts, “at the risk of the civilians?” and Myron yells at him to shut up. Goldman then asks Fournier if he speaks Vietnamese but Taylor growls that the VC speak English. Myron looks at the VC and then tells them that if they let the woman and children go, they can walk. Fournier shouts something in Vietnamese at the VC. He asks Goldman if he will let them go.
Goldman again states they need to let the woman and the children go. He then tells them to didi mau. The VC, with their weapons still trained on Goldman and the others, start to edge back. Taylor carefully moves forward. The VC then step back and duck down an alley, leaving the mama-san and her children unharmed as Myron watches. Johnson adds that they’ll see them in Cambodia.
Taylor gently encourages the mama-san to approach him. He apologizes, adding that maybe one day it won’t be like this. She nods and he shoos her and the children off the street into their hootch. Everyone stands down now, Taylor and Percell walking back to Goldman and their friends. Danny looks at Goldman and then Fournier, saying Cambodia yesterday, Cholon today, it seemed like they’re everywhere they aren’t supposed to be.
Goldman, still aggravated but relieved he has his men back turns to Fournier and tells him that they’ll take him back and he can write his story. Fournier, also relieved, notes that it won’t be as simple as he’d thought. Goldman says that maybe the truth is never simple. With all of them piled into the jeep, McKay drives away, everyone watching the rooftops as they leave.
Worth another look:
Myron agrees to go with Alex on her interview with Ben Paul, an American businessman working in Vietnam. Paul is full of himself, loves what the war is doing for his bottom line and makes no apologies for it. But neither he nor Alex perceive Myron’s growing annoyance. Myron makes an effort to be civil but it’s clear that Paul’s delight rubs him very much the wrong way. Unable to help himself, Paul finally asks Myron what it must be like out in the jungles. Alex tries to steer the conversation back to her but Myron’s had enough and says that Mr. Paul has a right to an answer.
With Short Round’s horrific death still very fresh in his mind, Myron tells Paul that the day before he had this fresh faced kid in his platoon who could have been anything. But instead he tripped a mine and it cut him in half. Paul stares at him in horror, apologizing, but Myron isn’t having any of it. All his pain and anger is out there now and he doesn’t want Paul to miss the fun part, that Short Round wasn’t immediately killed by the mine and that he hurt so bad that he begged his buddy to put a bullet in him.
Alex reaches over, taking his arm, saying please in an effort to shut him up but Myron jerks viciously away. He asks if that’s what Paul wanted to hear. Or maybe about how the VC skin his men alive sometimes. Now Alex and Paul stare at him. Disgusted, he tells them to forget it and leaves.
- A Beautiful Morning – The Rascals. Being played over the PA speakers at Tan Son Nhut as Taylor and Percell walk up to tease Johnson and Ruiz about KP duty.
- I’m Sorry – Brenda Lee. Plays in the background of the bar as Alex begins her interview with Ben Paul, the businessman.
- Sleep Walk – Santo and Johnny. Plays in the background of the bar as Myron goes off on Paul, telling him about Short Round being killed by a mine.
- In the Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett. At the Golden Dragon where a Vietnamese girl is pole dancing and stripping. Danny and Marcus are there with Fournier.
- Tell It Like It Is – Aaron Neville. Playing on the radio in Jennifer’s quarters as she and Zeke talk and get ready to enjoy a day off.
- Ooh, Baby, Baby – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Playing on the radio in Alex’s room as she and Myron slow dance and make out.