- Guest Stars: James Sutorius
- Story by: David Kemper and Carol Mendelsohn
- Directed by: Steven Dubin
Synopsis:During the Vietnam War there were over half a million incidents of desertion by US Servicemen.
Goldman walks through Camp Barnett on his way to Team Viking’s barracks. On his way over, he passes several other GIs, all of whom are quite sick. At Team Viking’s quarters, he finds the same situation as in the rest of the camp, his men all sprawled and sick on their bunks. He can’t help but needle them a bit over the fact they have food poisoning. Taylor notes that he now knows why pork wasn’t kosher for the L-T, as they all got sick on the sweet and sour pork served the night before. But Myron is there to assign Taylor and Percell to a prisoner detail. Unfortunately, neither man is up to the task. Doc volunteers but Myron tells him that unless he’s willing to carry a weapon and use it, he couldn’t accept Doc for the assignment. He asks Ruiz, who looks at him and then bolts from the hootch for the latrines as Zeke comes in, all grins. Like Goldman, he can’t help but give it to the men, who all groan in unison at him. Myron tells Zeke that he is gonna have to do the detail.
Unfortunately, it would appear they are about the only two people not sick at Camp Barnett, having eaten at Lulu’s the night before, so they end up on the detail together. Zeke tries to cheer up Goldman, who is less than enthused and informs Zeke that this is just one step above latrine duty. Zeke eventually manages to get him to see the positive side of things, that they scored a night on the town and could get a steak dinner, a few beers, and relax a bit before they picked up the prisoner they were to escort the next day.
That evening, at a restaurant/bar in Tay Ninh, the two men enjoy dinner and beers as Myron reads the file on the man they are to escort the next day. Goldman is puzzled, as the guy was clearly once a good soldier, but something went wrong somewhere as the man assaulted his captain and then went AWOL for 90 days. Anderson finally gets Goldman to put the file aside and simply kick back.
Back at Barnett, Ruiz, Taylor and Doc are using the latrine and talking about deserters in general. Taylor notes that Doc is a squirrelly little longhaired redneck pinko conchy medic, but that he would never desert them in battle. Meanwhile, Danny is dancing on one leg, waiting to use the latrine. He finally snags Doc’s tp and runs off.
Goldman and Anderson have worked their way through dinner and several beers and are now both a bit drunk. They decided to tell each other what they thought of the other when they first met. It is a discussion about trust and friendship, of Myron admitting that he knew he was blessed to have Zeke teach him how to be a good officer. And Zeke saying Myron was the first officer he worked with who was willing to learn that there was more than going by the book. Zeke then tells Myron he got a letter from Johnson, that Marvin was adjusting just fine and going back to school. He added Marvin had mentioned he had a girl friend and was going grow an Afro. Myron stares at him a moment. He is just drunk enough to say he thought he would grow one too when he got home. Zeke is clearly drunk enough to imagine Myron with one and says, “No, sir- don’t do that.”
The next morning at the MP Station, they collect Staff Sgt. Jonathan Digby. Digby has already escaped once that morning by jumping out the latrine window, stark naked. When they bring Digby out, one of the MPs is taunting him and a full-scale fight breaks out as they wrestle with Digby. Goldman and Anderson just watch bemusedly. Finally the MPs pin the man to the ground, Myron yelling enough and both he and Zeke rush over and kneel by the panting Digby.
On the road to Long Binh Jail, Anderson asks if Digby remembers him. He and Digby were in Germany in 1963. Digby starts to get sarcastic and Goldman tells him to shut up. Digby starts to taunt him. They end up with a flat tire. As Zeke changes it, he talks to Digby, wanting to know what had happened to him. Digby tells him that everyone, including himself, has a breaking point. The tire now fixed, Goldman helps Digby into the back of the jeep. He starts to cuff Digby to the jeep itself, but the deserter manages to convince Myron he’s not going anywhere and Goldman decides to just leave his hands and feet cuffed.
Back at the camp, Doc shows up at the Team’s hootch with a box of various medicines. He notes Lt. McKay helped to liberate the stuff from the dispensary and hands it out to the guys before he is forced to bolt for the latrines. While he is gone, Taylor, Percell and Ruiz get into a discussion about Heaven. Percell’s convinced there is one, and that it’s like Baja, all wide-open spaces and no one trying to kill you. Ruiz likes the idea, saying he even speaks the language.
Digby continues to needle Goldman, who is driving, saying Myron wouldn’t know a real soldier if he were sitting behind him. Goldman is less than impressed with Digby and wants to know why the guy would throw it all away. Digby explains that the MPs hit his wife who was a Vietnamese peasant girl. How after spending two months recovering in an EVAC hospital, he was too out of it to realize he had just signed on for six more years. After trying to get his tour shortened and rotated home, he finally deserted. Goldman has little sympathy. Digby replies that his captain hated him ever since he survived Operation Morning Star. Zeke and Myron exchange startled glances. In the next moment, Digby is between Anderson and Goldman, grabbing the steering wheel and forcing the jeep off the road before Anderson can get an arm around his neck. Myron is furious until Digby chokes out there were mines in the road. Myron orders Anderson to check it out. After a few moments, Zeke carefully uncovers an NVA mine.
They double back, Goldman radioing where they were and that they were going to have to take an alternate route. They stop outside a crowded bar to get something to eat. Digby wants to know if Goldman is always this gung-ho. Anderson tells him to just shut up as he cuffs Digby to him. Inside, Digby continues to dig at Goldman. Finally Zeke asks about Operation Morning Star, that 34 were dead, and only 3 survived. Digby notes one went to the nut house, the other was killed after being shot while looting a furniture store back home, and then himself- no survivors. Goldman still has little sympathy and tells Digby he doesn’t have a monopoly on horror stories. Myron then leaves to use the men’s room. Immediately, an Air Force mechanic decides to taunt and cause trouble, looking for a fight. Digby eggs him on as Anderson tries to keep it calm. But the mechanic is spoiling for a fight and slugs Anderson. A full-scale brawl breaks out and Goldman walks out into the middle of it. Startled, he helps one of the AF guys to his feet after the man was thrown up against the wall. The man asks Myron if the two guys, indicating Anderson and Digby, were his buddies. When Goldman says yes, the guy slugs Myron, who goes down like a ton of bricks.
Back on the road, no one is speaking. Myron has a hell of a shiner and the attitude to go with it. Zeke just keeps sliding careful glances his way, but says nothing. As they sit and wait for the local traffic to clear the road, Digby can see Myron is becoming more irritated by the minute and keeps goading him. Once the traffic has cleared and they are moving again, Digby takes a chance and jumps out the back of the jeep, making a run for it. Anderson realizes in time and Goldman turns the jeep around, cutting off Digby before he can get into the jungle.
Anderson tackles Digby and hauls him back into the jeep. Myron has had enough and completely loses it, dressing down Digby in a complete snit. Anderson meanwhile is trying to get Myron’s attention until, furious, Myron finally whirls around and sees what Zeke sees- Vietnamese coming out of the jungle.
Everyone freezes, Zeke warning Myron to stay calm. The Vietnamese approach carrying rifles, speaking to Myron who doesn’t understand what is being said. Finally Digby speaks up, talking in Vietnamese. It soon becomes obvious the Vietnamese are friendly and mean the GIs no harm, much to Anderson and Goldman’s relief. But they find out the road is washed out between there and Saigon. Myron makes a decision and asks if they can stay at the nearby village. With the entire band of Vietnamese draped all over the jeep, they drive to the village, Goldman radioing in they were with Lt. Pran of the local militia and where they were staying.
Back at camp, Doc Hock is waiting outside the mess hall when McKay sees him. He can’t believe Doc is waiting to eat, and calls him the most nonviolent lunatic he knows. Doc agrees, saying he’s always been nonviolent, but the lunacy came with the war. And that he was beginning to understand why they were there.
Night at the ville and Digby is restlessly sleeping while Myron and Zeke discuss him. Myron still can’t understand why Digby did it, why he threw it all away, and Anderson says the guy didn’t do anything that their own men hadn’t done. Only difference was that Digby hit the wrong guy, and it wasn’t fair. Myron agrees, but that was the way the system worked. After a moment, though, he decides to tell Anderson about the time he really screwed up by getting drunk and shooting up a bar in Saigon. Although he came off looking like a hero, Myron knows it could have been quite different. Anderson points out there are always two sides to every story. Myron is starting to realize this. A moment later Digby comes charging out of the hootch, frightened and begging to stay outside. It takes Anderson a minute to calm him down and Myron watches, concerned. He agrees to let Digby sleep outside for the remainder of the night.
The next morning at the ville, Digby finally explains to Anderson what happened at Operation Morning Star. How he ended up playing dead, pulling one of his own men over him. But then the NVA bayoneted all the bodies. When Hawkins’ body was knifed, the point went right through and into Digby’s chest. He told Zeke how there was blood everywhere- in his nose and mouth. How he couldn’t breath and how he felt so trapped as everything closed in on him. That he eventually woke up in the hospital, screaming until they put the bed out on the lawn. He tells Zeke that he had it under control until Captain Bishop had him assigned to supply. He simply couldn’t handle the walls.
One of the “rough puffs” comes running into the village, drawing everyone’s attention as he runs up to Lt. Pran. Pran then comes over to Goldman and Anderson and, with Digby translating, explains that the NVA had set up an ambush at the worst part of the road and that an American convoy was heading into it. With few options and less than half an hour, Goldman finally asks if Pran and his men will help them out. They agree as long as Goldman will lead them. Digby then convinces Goldman to unchain him and let him help. Myron is hesitant, and glances at Zeke. But Zeke says nothing, letting the young lieutenant make this decision on his own. Myron decides to take the chance and frees Digby.
Lt. Pran and his men slip up with Goldman, Anderson and Digby through the jungle until they find the NVA who are setting up to ambush the convoy. Myron quickly starts to disperse his men, but time has run out and the convoy is coming in. Everyone hurries into position. As the trucks start to come in, Myron keeps everyone hidden and quiet. He then carefully picks his target and takes the first shot, killing an NVA soldier. A firefight then breaks out as they pin the NVA in a crossfire. At one point a grenade is tossed at Digby and Goldman. Digby shouts a warning and throws himself on it as Myron ducks away. Thankfully, it doesn’t go off, but Myron is stunned with the act of bravery. With a few more shots exchanged, they beat back the NVA and save the convoy.
As the convoy moves safely on, Zeke and Myron discuss Digby, Anderson telling Myron about what happened to Digby. Myron is sympathetic, but he explains to Zeke that it’s out of their hands. They were only the escort, and not the ones to make that decision. Zeke won’t let Myron off so easily, and gently nudges him, reminding him with a few simple words – “bull’s eye” – that Myron really needs to reconsider his position. Back at the ville, it is Myron who regretfully puts the chains and handcuffs back on Digby. But the fight seems to have gone out of Digby as he climbs back into the jeep. Myron thanks him for what he did, and tells him that he wants to testify at his court martial on his behalf. As Zeke and Myron get ready to climb in, Digby suddenly says that they were going to go to Australia, that you couldn’t get any more wide open spaces than that. Myron finds himself staring at Zeke.
Back at Barnett, Myron is lying down on his rack as McKay reads behind him. McKay tells him he heard that Anderson and Goldman had “John Wayned” it and saved a truck convoy. At the same time, at the Team House, Anderson is also telling Team Viking the story. Both say that the rough puffs saved their lives and the convoy, and that Digby pulled his own weight. But after the fight was over and the smoke cleared, Digby was gone and they couldn’t find the body. Just a hole in the road where Digby had been and a mortar had hit. McKay just grins, teasing Myron who rolls over and tells him it’s true. McKay just shakes his head as Myron resettles, and calls him a pushover.
Worth another look:
Myron and Zeke share dinner and conversation concerning themselves and what they thought of each other when they first met. It is a rare moment for both men to simply be friends as they laugh and tease each other and remember everything they had been through together.
- I Feel Good – James Brown. At the beginning as Myron walks through the camp on his way to Team Viking’s barracks.
- Cast Your Fate to the Wind – Vince Guaraldi. As Myron reads from Digby’s file over dinner at Tay Ninh.
- It’s Impossible – orchestral version. As Myron and Zeke drink and talk about their first impressions of one another.