Gilmore Girls And Those Final Four Words

Please note: Although this post will discuss details of the original Gilmore Girls series and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I will be considerate enough to give ample warning of major spoilers. 

When it was announced that Netflix would be producing four new ninety-minute episodes of Gilmore Girls, I was ecstatic. I have watched Gilmore Girls in its entirety so many times that it might actually be part of my DNA. I love the incredibly close relationship between mother-daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and I love the contrast of that to Lorelai’s own complex relationship with her own parents (who adore Rory and whom Rory adores). I love the quirky, small-town characters. I love the pop culture references. I love that Rory loves to read and write. I love that Lorelai and Rory eat nothing but junk food (as unrealistic as that is) and have movie nights and dance to the Monkees in your underwear nights. As deep-rooted as my love for this show is, then, there was also a great fear that these episodes might be disappointing. Yet, I told myself, it couldn’t be much worse than Season 7, a truly painful experience. The Palladinos, the creators, writers, directors, et al. of the original series, had departed at the end of Season 6, leaving fans to wonder what Season 7 could have/might have/should have been. With their return, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life would provide us with that answer–as well as the final four words of the series, which creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had envisioned from the start. It just had to be good.

Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t funny, it wasn’t worth six hours of my life, and it certainly was not a satisfying end to the series. (And I do hope it’s the end this time because I cannot and do not want to take anymore.) In fact, the original series finale of Season 7 (which the cast and crew did not realize would serve as a series finale until the cancellation of the series was announced months later) was more satisfying and true to the spirit of the original show.

Let’s talk about Season 7 for a quick minute. Everyone criticizes Season 7 for its too obvious pop culture references, poor plot lines, and characters not acting liking themselves. I’d argue that all started in Season 6, particularly the latter half. (Upcoming spoilers if you haven’t watched Season 6 of Gilmore Girls–and you’re not missing all that much.) Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Luke has a daughter. Really? Like really? Poor plot line. And then…he’s not gonna tell Lorelai? For months? But OH WAIT, he NEVER actually does tell her. Lorelai walks into the diner unexpectedly and meets his daughter, who tells her she’s Luke’s daughter. Would Luke have EVER told Lorelai? This is guy we’re supposed to root for? No, thank you.
  • Lorelai gives Luke an ultimatum about getting married and when things don’t go her way (oh, no!), she runs to Christopher. OK, I get that. But then…she sleeps with him? But Luke’s the one! Yeah, okay.
  • Rory’s whole trajectory since meeting Logan Huntzberger is awful. He’s awful. Why did she date him so long? Remember when Paris described him as the guy “with the hair, and the chin like he’s the fourth Bee Gee”? Oh Paris, I love you. You rule the world.

So really, with the exception of Lane’s storyline in Season 7, all the other major arcs of Season 7 aren’t the fault of Season 7 staff and writers in my view. They’re just trying to muddle through the mess that was left to them. But I digress. Let’s now focus on THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY of  Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Spoilers ahead for A Year in the Life, but I will provide additional warning when I discuss the last four words and major plot developments relating to it. 

THE GOOD
(Because nothing is really better than good in this show, sadly.)

DEALING WITH GRIEF

Edward Herrmann, who played Richard Gilmore, died in 2014 of cancer. His presence as an actor and his character left a huge hole in the series. Yet, his death (and therefore, the death of his character) brings out the best moments in this revival. (I don’t really like that word. It makes me think of Burt Lancaster of Elmer Gantry…) In this revival (there’s that word again…), only two characters develop or grow significantly–and they do so because of Richard’s death. Emily is completely racked with grief and incapable of dealing with it. Yet, by the end of “Fall” (the final episode in the series), she has dealt with it — by selling her home, terminating her relationship/position with her social circles, notably the DAR (“This is bullshit,” she states repeatedly in an applicant’s interview. Go Emily!), and moving away from her life with Richard to find her own way. Emily was a woman who did everything for her husband–every facet of her life was for him–and now that he’s gone, she has to pave her own way. To watch her do so is immensely satisfying and refreshing.

Similarly satisfying and refreshing is watching Lorelai’s grief reach a resolution. In “Winter,” we learn that she was unable to share a suitable remembrance of her father after his funeral, causing another rift with her mother. Lorelai’s complex relationship with her parents and watching them rarely and momentarily connect and communicate was always one of the most rewarding aspects of the show. And so, when Lorelai makes a heartfelt and emotional phone call to Emily, sharing her favorite memory of her father, it is, without a doubt, the best moment of this new series.

 WHAT’S THE WI-FI PASSWORD?

The world has changed since 2007, and a “NO CELL PHONES” sign is no longer sufficient for Luke’s Diner. This running gag, in which customers ask Luke for the WiFi password and Luke gives a different fabricated, ridiculous response each time, is delightful and 100% Luke Danes. Nice one.

SEEING OLD CHARACTERS AND STARS HOLLOW AGAIN 

 Even when the characters’ presence or interaction with other characters has no substance (see “The Ugly”), and the town’s musical wastes what should be valuable screen time.

PETER KRAUSE AS “PARK RANGER” 

I don’t know if you know, but after Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham went on to star in the amazingly perfect NBC television series Parenthood, loosely adapted from Ron Howard’s 1989 film. If not, you should watch it because it’s, well, amazing and perfect. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life features a few appearances from Parenthood alums, including Mae Whitman (Amber Holt), Jason Ritter (Mark Cyr), and, my personal favorite, Peter Krause (Adam Braverman). Who’s got the fever? Krause plays Park Ranger, who denies Lorelai entrance into the Pacific Coast Trail without a permit. How perfect is that? There is literally no way Adam Braverman is ever gonna let anybody through without a permit. I love Peter Krause. Or do I just love Adam Braverman? I can’t tell, but this part was great.

Now it’s time for…

THE BAD
(And I’m being exceptionally kind…)

IT’S LONG, BUT IT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING 

First, it’s six hours with no substance or plot or story to be found, anywhere. As fun as it was to see so many of the characters again, few of them added anything to the story. Paris Gellar rules, and she deserved more. She only shows up to answer the “Why don’t Luke and Lorelai have kids?” question. (And really, seeing where Luke and Lorelai are in their relationship by this point, I literally do not care why they don’t have kids.) There’s also Jess. Oh, Jess. Jess is great, I love Jess (who couldn’t love the artful Dodger?), don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t add anything to the (non-existent) story or really move the plot along too much versus his return in Season 6, which prompts Rory’s return to Yale. (Well, he does suggest that Rory write a book…maybe I just wanted more Jess.) Of course, his final, longing glance at Rory is CHALKED FULL of meaning and significance.

On the other hand, Rory’s bump-in with Dean provides something resembling closure for the two and also highlights Dean’s significance for Rory–something the original series kind of let slide away. Time for another quick rant: Dean was a great boyfriend for Rory. And once again, the writing is to blame for his character’s flaws. Many believe Jess is Rory’s intellectual equal–which, hey, maybe he is, but don’t forget Logan went to YALE and wasn’t exactly brain dead–but Dean wasn’t always portrayed as so stupid, like he conveniently was once Jess entered the picture to heighten his allure for Rory. Sure, Dean was never gonna go to an Ivy league school and never aspired to, but he did have an interest in books and the world around him. He did urge Rory in Season 1 to read Hunter Thompson. Anyway, I always liked Dean and disliked Rory for the way she treated him in the end. Quick rant over.

Whereas Dean’s appearance is brief and meaningful, The Life and Death Birgade are the uninvited guest who stays ’til the end. Logan Huntzberger and his friends were meant to show Rory the “fun” side of money, whereas her grandparents had been the stuffy, uptight side. I always hated these guys. They were irresponsible, were disgustingly immature, and had no respect for anybody or anything. Ten years later, they haven’t changed one bit. Thirty-something year-old men who are still acting like they’re in college, buying bars in the middle of the night just because they can? Give me a break. And Rory’s whole tearful goodbye with them and how they meant so much to her was absolutely stupid. She should have moved beyond this, but she hasn’t.

DEJA VU 

Even though the show is lacking substance and story, it sure does love to repeat/re-hash story lines/conflicts from the series, particularly the last two seasons. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • The mess that is Luke and Lorelai. Why are they even a couple?
  • The Gilmores wanting Luke to franchise his diner and Luke not wanting to but not actually communicating that. You are not Charles Xavier, Luke.
  • Rory still being rankled by Mitchum Huntzberger. She is so timid and shaken by his appearance, and it is a sad contrast to the girl who sassed him in the elevator after Logan’s graduation.
  • Rory’s aimlessness and irresponsibility, which she already experienced with Logan and his friends during her sabbatical from Yale. I get it–to a degree. It’s a tough, competitive world out there–especially in her chosen profession. But I expect more from Rory. Not that she has to be a senior editor at the New York Times, but I expect more than frolicking with the Life and Death Birgade and showing up to an interview totally unprepared. I was disappointed in Rory (more of that to come) and didn’t see any growth or change in her at all. She was more like end-of-Season 5/early-Season 6 Rory than what I expected 32 year-old Rory to be. She’s got to get over the fact that everything is not going to go her way in life. She’s been spoiled and indulged and told she was smart and beautiful, and she therefore thinks everything should be handed to her. To quote Hall and Oates, I don’t go for that.

LUKE AND LORELAI? NO, THANK YOU. 

I love Luke Danes. I love Lorelai Gilmore. And for a time, I loved Luke and Lorelai as a couple. Yet, with time, I no longer 100% believed that the two belonged together. Still, seeing the two come together again in the original series finale was fine. But to find them having the same conflicts–hiding things from each other, for example–AND not being married after the hissy-fit Lorelai threw in Season 6/7 (Lorelai repeatedly expressed her desire to be married throughout the entire series, whether that was being like her mother or not) is ridiculous and downright unhealthy. I’m now convinced you don’t really belong together. Sorry. How you continue to be in a relationship–and how anyone roots for you–is beyond me. Literally do not get it anymore.

THE UGLY
(…and it is REALLY ugly)

You should stop reading if you do not want to read spoilers related to the last four words. 

STARS HOLLOW: THE MUSICAL

Although the series as a whole was short on story and substance, this segment of the show lasted way, way, WAY too long. In fact, after about five minutes of enduring what can only be described as torture, I fast-forwarded because I was so sick of wasting my time. I’m not even sure how long it lasted, but it was completely unnecessary. Stars Hollow’s quirky characters and town functions are central to the show and its charm, but this was entirely pointless. Not only did we have to experience one song from the musical but all the songs from the musical and we had to cast it, rehearse it, discuss it, and watch Lorelai have an epiphany (being that she needs to go hike the Pacific Coast Trail and find herself) because of it. So stupid, so unbelievable, and such a waste of time.

RORY AS LOGAN’S MISTRESS 

Yes, Rory (who has a clueless boyfriend named Paul that no one, including herself) is Logan’s mistress. Logan is engaged to marry a French heiress, yet he and Rory still “hook up” every time she comes to London. (By the way, how does she afford that? Must be nice.) Apparently, she didn’t learn anything from the whole sleeping-with-married-Dean fiasco, and she now thinks she can do the whole No Strings Attached (great album) relationship–even though she clearly could not do it before. That is so not Rory. It makes zero sense, and it is completely disappointing. You deserve so much better, Rory.

Now…we have to talk about those last four words. STOP–I REPEAT STOP–if you do not know and do not want to know those last four words.

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Rory: Mom?
Lorelai: Yeah?
Rory: I’m pregnant.

I don’t know about you, but I shouted in disbelief and disgust. That is the ending Amy Sherman-Palladino had always envisioned for these two? That is what Chilton and Yale and all those books (why is Rory never reading in these episodes?) and being hit by a deer and all that ambition were for? Don’t misunderstand me: there’s nothing wrong with being pregnant or being a mother. (Granted Rory decides to keep the baby…) I’m just disgusted and disappointed with the way it happened. Logan’s the daddy, obviously. Logan, who’s engaged to another woman, was once described as “Rory’s Christopher” — he is wealthy, reckless, rebellious, immature, but also kind-hearted and somewhat lovable. I just expect more of Rory and want more for Rory.

I understand that it’s supposed to represent everything coming full circle for the Gilmore Girls: Rory paralleling the path of her mother. Remember Rory’s graduation speech at Chilton? “My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith. As she guided me through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, Mom. You are my guidepost for everything.” And maybe Rory’s journey of having (or, perhaps not having) this baby will lead her to grow and develop as Lorelai did. I just wish it was under different circumstances, i.e. Rory not wasting her time running around with the Life and Death Birgade to the soundtrack of awful Beatles covers.

And it’s just so gimmicky. Ugh.

In conclusion, if you haven’t watched Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life or are contemplating watching it, heed my advice: Don’t. Just enjoy the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls–it was so good. As for watching A Year in the Life: I wish I hadn’t. (How’s that for four final words?)

How to Select and Attack a Vampire Victim by Barnabas Collins

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve been revisiting Dark Shadows (circa 1897) and boy, is it awesome–and by it, I mean Quentin’s sideburns. I’ve been noticing a lot of things I didn’t notice before, and I’m prepared to share some of my knowledge. So to appease all you (hallo)weenies who whine about this blog’s lack of Dark Shadows content, here’s a brief tutorial on how to select and attack your vampire victims, as demonstrated by the master that is Barnabas Collins.

1. Go to the docks. 

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It’s the best place to find victims because, as you can see, the place is crawling with people–er, barrels. I think there’s a deleted subplot in On the Waterfront about this.

2. If you see something on the ground, (in)conspicuously pick it up.

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Especially if it’s a compact. Because you may need to glance at your reflection and–oh, wait, you don’t have a reflection…Pick it up anyway. It may be useful.

3. Eavesdrop, startle, and start a conversation about a lost item which you have…

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Eavesdrop on any conversations you may hear to pick up important details such as “I’m gonna go look for my compact.” Hover creepily so you can startle your victim. Then begin a conversation by asking if you can help her find something which you conveniently have…

4. Don’t mention your name. 

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Especially if you’re a Collins. Don’t want people to get the wrong idea–like that members of the Collins family actually leave Collinwood and interact with common, everyday folk who aren’t their servants.

5. Play “hard to get.” Pretend to get “cold feet.” In other words, act like you have to go to the bathroom REALLY BAD!! 

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“I don’t understand you. What’s the matter with you?” Haven’t you heard? Barnabas Collins has a really small BLADDER!! Also: you don’t look like Josette reincarnated, so you have negative one thousand percent of a chance with this guy.

6. When your cover is blown, remain calm. 

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Try not to look like you just crapped your pants when your victim asks why she can’t see your reflection. It just looks bad.

7. Just do it. 

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There’s no turning back now. Go in for the kill. Cue horrible scream. This show is never short of GREAT actors.

Good night and good luck and happy Halloween,

The Count(ess) Petofi

Cheers: Sorry. We’re closed.

I feel like a zombie, just going through the motions. I wake up. I do stuff. I go to bed. Repeat. Where is the purpose? Where is the joy? Where is the contentment?

Yes, I have finally, regrettably finished watching all eleven seasons of Cheers. That’s 275 episodes, equalling approximately 110 hours or 6,600 minutes or about five entire days of watching nothing but Cheers. That’s infinite minutes of laughter, sadness, and feeling a part of an eclectic group of people who, on the surface, have very little in common except that they frequent a little bar in Boston called Cheers.

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I know, I’m being overdramatic. I can watch the show again — syndication, DVDs, Netflix! I know. I know how lucky I am. I honestly do not know how people coped — what people did on May 21, 1993. I really do not know. How did they find the strength to get out of bed the next morning? How did they cope with this immense feeling of loss? This indescribable feeling of emptiness?

I know, I’m being dramatic again. Shows end. People move on.

But I really, really, really loved Cheers. There were fantastic episodes. There great episodes. There were good episodes. But there was never really a bad episode — even when Diane Chambers, the most annoying character in the history of television, made me want to pull my hair out as she prattled incessantly about something that nobody — except maybe Frasier and then only maybe — cared about…even then, Cheers was good. Sometimes very good. Sometimes the best.

cheers1The original cast of Cheers: Ted Danson (Sam Malone), John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), Nicholas Colasanto (Ernie “Coach” Pantusso), Shelley Long (Diane Chambers), and Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli).

In the early seasons, Coach was my favorite. I thought that when he left, I wouldn’t like the show as much anymore. I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong. As much as I loathed Diane, I thought that when she left, the show’s quality would decline. I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong.

cheers2The cast during the second half of the series: Rhea Perlman (Carla Tortelli), Woody Harrelson (Woody Boyd), Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane), Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith Sternin-Crane), George Wendt (Norm Peterson), Kirstie Alley (Rebecca Howe), Ted Danson (Sam Malone), and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin).

Despite cast changes, Cheers never felt stale. It never reached a point where I thought, “This is no longer enjoyable. This really isn’t that good of a show anymore. I don’t need to keep watching it.” No, Cheers always made me laugh, made me feel a part of something, made me feel grateful to be alive.

frasierDiane’s saving grace: introducing Cheers — and the world — to Dr. Frasier Crane. When Cheers ended, only 1% of viewers surveyed voted Frasier as their favorite character on Cheers, with only 2% voting that Frasier should have his own spin-off.

While struggling to cope with this loss, I reached the episode in Frasier (thank goodness for Frasier) where Woody shows up.

Dear, sweet, dumb Woody. Every word out of your mouth is a gem.

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Woody as Mark Twain? Unforgettable. Dear, sweet, dumb Woody. Every facial expression of yours is a gem.

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Woody eating snowballs (which he hates)? Priceless. Dear, sweet, dumb Woody, you are a gem, and someday — someday soon — I am going to re-watch every episode of Cheers featuring Woody just so I can record every word that comes out of Woody Boyd’s mouth in a little journal because when Woody Boyd talks, people listen. And when I am sad and depressed, I can pull out this little journal and just laugh, laugh, and laugh. People will fight over this little journal when I am dead and gone. Believe me.

In “The Show Where Woody Shows Up,” Frasier and Woody reunite during Woody’s visit to Seattle. They swap stories about old times in Boston and laugh about Mr. Clavin and Carla and Norm and Sam. They have such a good time that they arrange to meet again. And again. And again — until Frasier is driven crazy at the thought of spending any more time with Woody Boyd, with whom he has nothing in common except their shared experiences in Boston — experiences and memories in which he has begun to feign interest and laughter. When Woody tells Frasier he has to leave Seattle early because of an infection his daughter has, Frasier is relieved.

But then he later sees Woody at a restaurant. Woody, embarrassed and ashamed because he has lied (Woody is a stickler for honesty, bless him), hides in the bathroom to avoid an awkward confrontation.

“Woody, come out of there please,” Frasier says, knocking on the bathroom door.

“No hablo Ingles,” Woody replies.

“I don’t understand this,” Frasier says.

“It means ‘I don’t speak English.'”

Love that Woody!

Woody and Frasier then admit to each other that their repeated reminiscences together became unbearable, and each felt the other was having such a good time neither one of them had the heart to break it to the other that he was no longer enjoying their time together.

Furthermore, Woody tells Frasier, he feels sorry for Frasier because he lives with his dad, spends most of social life with his brother Niles, and any other friends he has are kind of strange. Earlier, Frasier had been telling Niles how sorry he has felt for Woody because he’s been tending the same bar in the same town for the past 15 years. Instead of telling Woody this, however, Frasier realizes how lucky Woody is and tells him so. Woody is lucky, Frasier says, because he has found his place in life and he belongs there.

They share one last beer together, promising to reunite again in five or ten years (ten years it is, declares Frasier). “Cheers,” says Woody.

“Cheers,” says Frasier.

And I want to cry.

In the finale of Cheers, Sam reunites with Diane (gag me) and announces that he and Diane will marry and live together in California, denouncing his same old life tending bar in Boston. But by the end, he returns (without Diane, thank goodness). He shares cigars and beers with Norm and Woody and Carla and Cliff and reflects on the meaning of life.

“I’m the luckiest SOB on Earth,” Sam declares to a darkened, empty bar, pounding his fist on the counter, in the finale scene. A knock comes on the door, and Sam replies, “Sorry. We’re closed.”

What I love about this scene — and the scene in Frasier — is that both convey a level of contentment, a sense of ease with one’s self — what one has, the choices made, and where you are in life. It is a feeling I strive for, a feeling I have felt in those 6,600 minutes of my life watching Cheers, greeting “NORM!!!!”, rolling my eyes at Diane, wondering when Cliff would stop talking, rolling into a ball of laughter at the dim-wittedness of Coach and Woody.

Band of Brothers

I have now seen X-Men: Days of Future Past four times (I am a balanced and stable human being, don’t judge me) and each time I love it a little bit more (“Whip-laaaaaaaash”) and each time I see the preview for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet again and each time the preview begins, I say, “Joe Toye!”

Joe Toye is an Easy Company soldier portrayed by Kirk Acevedo in Band of Brothers and even though Acevedo is only an actor who has obviously gone on to do other projects, he–like so many of the other actors in the series–will always remain indelibly linked to the Easy Company man he portrayed so well.

Before X-Men took over my life, I was in the midst of another viewing of Band of Brothers, which I have struggled to write about before because it is so darn perfect. The opening credits are perfect. The acting is perfect. The writing is perfect. The music is perfect. The story is perfect–and true (…well, mostly). The series tells the true story of a group of American paratroopers in World War II as they jump behind enemy lines in Normandy on D-Day and progress through the war in Europe.

“The paratroops were life itself, life and death and the thrill of conquering yourself by jumping from an airplane.”
— David Kenyon Webster

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Part One: “Currahee”
“I will not follow that man into combat.”
— 
Sgt. Guarnere

The men are preparing for their first combat jump into Normandy, only to be told it has been cancelled due to the weather. They withdraw inside tents to watch Mr. Lucky starring Cary Grant and outside, Lieutenants Winters (Damian Lewis) and Nixon (Ron Livingston) speak of the weather and happy hour and Chicago, the hometown of their former commanding officer, a strict disciplinarian for whom the men had nothing but contempt, Captain Herbert M. Sobel (David Schwimmer).

Two years earlier, the men suffer punishment for the slightest infractions and endure vigorous physical training, which includes running three miles up and three miles down a mountain (more like a hill, actually) known as Currahee (meaning “stand alone,” the source of the regiment’s motto) under this man’s command. Following an intense session of physical training, Sobel berates a private.

“Why are you here, Private Gordon?” he shouts.

“I want to be in the Airborne, sir,” Private Gordon replies.

“I don’t believe you,” Sobel declares. His tone and face are expressionless as he repeats his question, “Why are you here, Private Gordon?”

“I want to be in the Airborne, sir!” Private Gordon repeats, this time louder and with more force.

“You have fifteen minutes to the top and back, and I will be watching you,” Sobel instructs him calmly. Gordon does not move, and Sobel tauntingly asks, “What are you waiting for?”

We do not see this conversation from the perspective of Gordon or Sobel but three faceless comrades watching the scene from a distance. Next, as Private Gordon makes his way up Currahee, we see these same men joining Gordon—presumably not because they have been similarly punished by Sobel but because they are there to support Gordon as a comrade, friend, and brother.

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Sobel’s enforcement of the Army’s rules and regulations is ridiculous. He raids the men’s sleeping quarters and discovers countless items that he considers contraband. He holds up a magazine with an image of a scantily clad woman. Pornography, obviously. Contraband! A red tie. Non-regulation clothing, of course. Contraband! One man had 200 prophylactic kits in his footlocker – how in the name of God was he gonna have the strength to fight the war? And why, Sobel wonders holding a stack of enveloped letters, does Private Tipper have so much time for so much personal correspondence?

This query proves too much for Lieutenant Winters, who interrupts Sobel to ask, “Captain, are personal letters to be considered contraband?”

Inhaling the scent from one of Tipper’s letters, Sobel answers, “These men aren’t paratroopers yet, Lieutenant. They have no personal property.”

Sobel discards the letters and then holds up what is clearly a can of Libby’s peaches, yet he still asks the officers present, “What is this?” Nobody answers. “Anybody?” He asks, shaking the can, as if it is so obvious what it is (which it is).

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“Uh, it’s a can of peaches, sir,” Lieutenant Nixon offers.

Although Sobel remains characteristically emotionless, this answer obviously delights him as it presents an opportunity for humiliation and punishment. “Lieutenant Nixon thinks this is a can of peaches. That is incorrect, Lieutenant. Your weekend pass is cancelled. This is United States Army Property, which was taken without authorization from my mess facility, and I will not tolerate thievery in my unit.”

Sobel is unequivocally hated by the men, some even going so far as to threaten to kill him in combat before the Germans or Japanese have a chance. Sobel may exercise authority over these men but they do not respect him. Their respect is reserved for another leader, Lieutenant Winters. Winters is a smart and natural leader. Sobel is an excellent disciplinarian but a poor combat leader who gets them “killed” and “lost” in field exercises (which is one of the funniest scenes in the series, headed as always by George Luz, bless him). When the tension between Sobel and Winters reaches such a point that Winters is removed from the men of Easy Company, the noncommissioned officers (NCOs) of Easy Company decide to turn in their stripes and risk their lives because their trust and faith in Sobel as a combat leader is so tenuous. Sobel is eventually re-assigned and Winters is re-instated, and by the end of the episode, the men, bound together by their training and loyalty to and faith in one another, are aboard C-47s, destined for Normandy.

Part Two: “Day of Days”

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“That night I thanked God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed that I would make it through D plus one. And if somehow I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace.”
— Lieutenant Winters

Planes flying too low and too fast. Heavy flak. Men are dropped all over the place, scattered far from their designated drop zones. It is the perfect atmosphere for chaos and failure but the exact opposite happens, a testament to the strength of their training, skills, and character. Lieutenant Winters leads a group of men to take out a group of German guns shooting down on Utah Beach, undoubtedly influencing the success of the D-Day.

At one point, the men pass a group of German POWs. Malarkey (Scott Grimes) jovially greets the men, “Top of the morning to ya, fellas. Enjoying the war?” He then moves closer to one of the men and asks, perhaps in an attempt to imitate General Eisenhower who talked to thousands of enlisted men during inspections prior to D-Day and invariably asked each man he spoke to the same question Malarkey asks this POW, “Where are you from, son?”

Malarkey starts to turn and walk away when the POW startles him by answering, “Eugene, Oregon.”

Malarkey is from the nearby town of Astoria (locale of The Goonies) and is shocked and dumbfounded as to why someone from a town so near to him would be in a Kraut uniform.

“Volksdeutsche,” the POW explains. “My family answered the call. All true Aryans should return to the Fatherland. Joined up in ‘41.”

In the course of their brief conversation, Malarkey discovers that he and this German POW grew up near to one another, ended up working the same job twenty miles apart, and finally ended up in Normandy fighting the war on opposite sides. It is an eerie illustration of one of the saddest aspects of war – of how two men, boys rather, with so much in common would, under different, normal circumstances, have the potential to be such good friends but instead, amidst war, they are trained to kill and despise one another.

Malarkey bids goodbye and passes Lieutenant Speirs, who approaches the group of POWs and offers them cigarettes, which they gratefully accept. He even lights the cigarettes for them. The camera focuses on Malarkey making his way back to re-join the men, but he is stopped by the sound of gunshots. He turns around, stunned at the sight he sees that we do not – a sight we do not have to see because his expression tells us all we need to know.

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Part Three: “Carentan”

“You know why you hid in that ditch? We were all scared. You hid because you think there’s still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept that you’re already dead and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends upon it.”
Lieutenant Speirs, Motivational Speaker since 1944

The men are in Carentan, France, on D-Day plus 6, where they are engaged in intense and costly fighting. Two soldiers enter a house in order to clear it, and having deemed the building safe, one of the soldiers runs back through the house when a mortar shell unexpectedly explodes. The camera then turns, putting you in his position. He hears the muffled voices of his buddies calling his name, “Tipper! Tip! Answer me, Tipper!” His eyesight is blurry. His step is unsteady. He reaches his friends, and even though you cannot yet see his injuries, you can see the alarm and concern on their faces as they stare, open-mouthed, at the sight of their friend. One friend, Joe, tells him, “You’re looking good, Tip. You’re looking real good. Come here, buddy, you gotta sit down.” And then the camera turns, revealing the extent of Tipper’s injuries. Blood is pouring from his face. His left eye is bloody and swollen shut, and his legs are mangled and likely broken. But Joe sits there with him, and cradles his head as Tipper’s blood spills onto him, and he tells him, “You hang in there, buddy. We’re gonna get you fixed up.”

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What I love most about this scene is the fact that if you haven’t read Band of Brothers, if you don’t know these men and their stories, then you would believe, based on this scene, that Ed Tipper never made it to a medic station or if he did, he surely died from the wounds he received from clearing that building. But he didn’t. Joe and the other soldiers there had such great love for their friend that they were determined to get him the help he needed – and they did. They carried Tipper to an aid station, and because of their love and determination, he is still alive today.

By the end of the episode, the men are back in England. Malarkey and More ride in a motorcycle and sidecar, narrowly missing a collision with a truck, leading Malarkey to exclaim, “It’s good to be alive!” Later, though, with the orders that the men will be leaving England soon, Malarkey goes to pick up his laundry from a local woman. Having paid her and refused a cup of tea, he goes to leave when she unexpectedly asks him, “Lieutenant Meehan is one of yours, isn’t he? I hope he hasn’t forgotten his laundry.” Malarkey hesitates, unsure how to respond. Lieutenant Meehan was the commanding officer of Easy Company whose plane crashed in flames on D-Day. “I’ll take it,” he says, holding out his hand for her to take the money owed. She asks for more help, reading off name after name.

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Malarkey, scenes earlier so ecstatic and exhilarated to be alive, is frozen, unable to move, only able to extend his hand helplessly with his money to pay the woman and stare absently into the distance, reflecting on how many men have been lost since the men jumped into Normandy.

Also: One of the major themes of Band of Brothers is that Lieutenant Winters is awesome. In this episode, he nonchalantly heals the blind because he actually is The Messiah.

Part Four: “Replacements”

WINTERS: I don’t like retreating.
NIXON: First time for everything.

Following the costly fighting in Carentan, replacements have infiltrated the company. One of these replacements is Private James Miller.

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Professor! 

Yup. James McAvoy.

(And because everything is actually about X-Men in my life right now: Magneto is in Band of Brothers, too, which I never realized before, partly because I had zero idea who he was the previous times I watched it, partly because he’s not a prominent character, and partly because he’s not throwing his hands up looking constipated while controlling metal all the time. It’s a lot harder to recognize him when he’s not doing that.)

Replacements like Miller are not instantly welcomed into the fabric of the company. They are green and inexperienced, but their opportunity to gain experience arises quickly, as Winters explains their next mission: Operation Market Garden.

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“In terms of airborne divisions involved, this one’s even bigger than Normandy.” 

(Bigger than your pockets, sir?)

The men are headed to liberate Holland, where opposition is supposed to be light — the Germans are reportedly all old men and young kids — and if the operation is successful, the war will be over by Christmas. While preparing for their jump, a dark cloud appears. It’s Captain Sobel. Everybody pretty much poops their pants. But it’s okay. He’s just a supply officer.

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The jump into Holland is near perfect — the weather is beautiful, the men are dropped in the correct places, and there is no German opposition. They are welcomed and loved by the people of Holland. Privates Webster, Hoobler, and Van Klinken wander at night, in hopes of securing nicer sleeping quarters. A man steps out of his cellar, his air raid shelter, and is startled by the sight of the soldiers and their raised guns. He raises his hands to show them he is defenseless. With their discoveries that he is a helpless local man and they are friendly American soldiers, the men engage in conversation about whether the Germans are really gone and how long the Americans intend to stay in Holland. The men have little information to offer.

“Yeah, they don’t tell us very much,” Webster says sardonically.

“Or feed us very much,” Hoobler injects hopefully. The man goes back into his home and returns with jars of food for the men. They trade cigarettes and food, and a small boy then emerges from the cellar and sits down. Webster is softened by the sight of the boy and hands him a chocolate bar from his rations. He crouches down to his level and smiles as he watches the boy takes his first bite of chocolate – ever.

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“He’s never tasted chocolate before,” his father tells the soldiers. Oh, to be so innocent (and thin!). The little boy breaks into a smile, prompting Webster to smile in return. “It’s good, isn’t it?”

Yes. It’s the best. It’s what I live for.

Part Five: “Crossroads” 

RICE: Panzer divisions are gonna cut the road south. Looks like you guys are gonna be surrounded.
WINTERS: We’re paratroopers, Lieutenant. We’re supposed to be surrounded.

Winters reflects on Operation Pegasus and is haunted by his memory of shooting a young SS soldier. (This is an example of dramatization because Winters said he never thought about shooting this kid as much as depicted in the series.)

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Later, during a respite, the men are watching a film. This time it’s The Seven Sinners, starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich. George Luz (Rick Gomez), being George Luz, irritates the others by imitating Wayne. “Look at me, I’m John Wayne. The costume department set me up with these great Navy whites…”

“Luz, shut up!”

Jump to 2:05 for the scene (although all the other scenes are great and funny and worth watching, too.)

LUZ: Lip, favorite part. Got a penny? Got a…penny? Got a…penny?

I. Love. George. Luz.

The film is interrupted (“You can’t do that to The Duke!” exclaims George Luz, heh heh) by the announcement that the 1st and 6th SS Panzer Divisions have broken through in the Ardennes, overrunning portions of the 128th and 4th infantry divisions and necessitating Easy’s return to the front line of action–without proper winter clothing or adequate rations or ammo, hence the appearance of Jimmy Fallon, the most bizarre moment of the series.

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He’s all, “You guys want some ammo?” Uh, yeah.

“Where the Hell are we?”

“We ain’t in Hell, it’s too damn cold.” 

Nope. Ya’ll in Bastogne.

Part Six: “Bastogne” 

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“He was there when he was needed, and how he got ‘there’ you often wondered. He never received recognition for his bravery, his heroic servicing of the wounded. I recommended him for a Silver Star after a devastating fight when his exploits were typically outstanding. Maybe I didn’t use the proper words and phrases, perhaps Lieutenant Dike didn’t approve, or somewhere along the line it was cast aside. I don’t know. I never knew except that if any man who struggled in the snow and the cold, in the many attacks through the open and through the woods, ever deserved such a medal, it was our medic, Gene Roe.”
Lieutenant Foley

It’s freezing. The men lack winter clothing. They have little or no ammo. They have no aid station and limited medical supplies, as Doc Roe (Shane Taylor), the central character of this episode, scrounges for bandages, morphine, plasma, even scissors.

A group of men embark on a combat patrol. Doc Roe follows the group but is ordered to stay behind. He sits against a tree, staring into the distance, listening for every sign of what is happening to the men. He hears gunshots and frantic, anguished cries.

One man, Private Julian, is badly wounded. Ed “Babe” Heffron reaches across to him, telling him to stop moving so the Germans will stop shooting and promising him they will get him out of there. The men have to fall back, however, and Julian is left behind to die, his hand outstretched, puddles of his dark red blood sponging the white snow. The experience haunts Heffron, who had promised Julian he would gather his things to send back home to his mother if anything happened to him. Surely no one knows better than Doc Roe the frustration of not being to help a comrade and watching him die.

Roe befriends a French nurse, Rene, in Bastogne. She helps take care of the wounded who cannot be evacuated in a building. Roe is there one day, picking up some supplies, when a seriously injured man is brought in. He helps Rene to try to locate an artery to stop the profuse bleeding. The man dies. Roe throws the bloody rag he had been using to try to stop the bleeding down in frustration.

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“You’re a good nurse,” Roe tells Rene.

“No, I never want to treat another wounded man again,” she says, removing her blue bandana. “I’d rather work in a butcher’s shop.”

“But your touch calms people,” Roe insists. “That’s a gift from God.”

Throughout the episode, Roe repeatedly calls Heffron by his surname. At one point, Heffron asks Roe why he calls him Heffron. “You know my name, use it,” Heffron tells Roe.

“It’s Edward, right?” asks Roe.

“Edward? Are you serious?” Heffron says. “Only the Goddamn Nuns call me Edward.”

The final scene shows Heffron and Roe sharing a foxhole. These two men are on the edge, fatigued, weighed down by the deaths they’ve witnessed and been unable to prevent. But in this moment, in this foxhole, they pull each back from that edge.

“Everything okay? Babe?” asks Roe. Heffron is non-responsive. Roe notices an injury on Heffron’s hand and reaches to fix it up. Heffron absent-mindedly holds out his hand for Roe.

“Hey, Gene, you called me Babe,” he says, suddenly snapping to life.

“I did? When?”

“Yeah. Just now.”

“Babe,” Roe repeats in his deep Cajun accent. “I guess I did.”

Heffron laughs and imitates Roe’s accent, “Babe.”

“Heffron, watch the Goddamn line,” Roe snaps good-naturedly, wrapping Heffron’s hand using Rene’s blue bandana.

This (and the following episode) is my favorite episode of the series. I love the shift of focus to the medic, a figure easily relegated to the background. There are the biggest hearts in my eyes for Doc Roe.

Part Seven: “The Breaking Point” 

Battling near Foy, Belgium, the men suffer numerous casualties, both physically and mentally as men near “the breaking point.” Central to this episode is the incompetence of their C.O. Lieutenant Norman Dike, labeled Foxhole Norman by the men. (“Uh, 1st Sgt. Lipton, you organize things here and I’m gonna go…for help?”) When he is at the head of an attack on the town of Foy, the results are disastrous. The men are sitting ducks and repeatedly ask Dike what they should do, to which he desperately responds, “I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know!” Men are unnecessarily killed and injured because of his inability to make sound decisions. Martin calls to a Private Webb to fall back because he is too exposed. When Webb does not respond, Martin shakes to move him to action. Webb’s lifeless body falls limply.

Winters, now battalion commander, begins to make his way to take charge of the situation himself, only to be pulled back by Colonel Sink who reminds Winters of his position and that he is no longer in charge of these men. Frustrated and angry because of Dike’s incompetence and his bond with these men, Winters orders Lieutenant Speirs (aka Legend) of Dog Company to relieve Dike and take control of the situation. Speirs runs toward the men, grabs Dike by the neck, and calmly says, “I’m taking over.” Thank God, huh?

The men need to connect with I Company before they slip away, jeopardizing the success of the operation. Speirs (Matthew Settle) asks Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) if they have any sight of I Company or radio connection. No sight, no radio. “Wait here,” Speirs tells Lipton, as he sprints amidst the cascade of tanks and artillery. Earlier in the episode, Lipton, the narrator of the episode, said that Speirs was already a legend because of the stories about him shooting one of his own sergeants and lining up 20 (or more, depending on who was relating the story) German POWs after giving them a smoke and a light. This is where that legend solidifies.

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“At first, the Germans didn’t shoot at him. I think they couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. But that wasn’t the really astounding thing. The astounding thing was that after he hooked up with ‘I’ company…he came back.”

The first time I watched Band of Brothers, I found Speirs scary and intimidating, his actions sometimes shadowed in doubt as to whether they were appropriate or right. I would now consider him one of my favorite characters. He is a fearless leader who protects and, in this case, saves the lives of the men. He is, quite simply, a L E G E N D.

Part Eight: “The Last Patrol” 

“I wondered if people back home would ever know what it cost the soldiers to win this war. In America, things were already beginning to look like peacetime. The standard of living was on the rise, race tracks and night clubs were booming. You couldn’t get a hotel room in Miami Beach it was so crowded. How could anyone ever know of the price paid by soldiers in terror, agony, and bloodshed if they’d never been to places like Normandy, Bastogne, or Haguenau?”
— 
Private David Webster

Band of Brothers, as a whole, does a good job of portraying what these men endured and accomplished in the course of the war accurately. Dramatization naturally occurs. Literary license is often taken to help tell the story. As a result, there are occasional inaccuracies. Some are major, such as the series perpetuating the falsehood that Private Blithe died because of the wounds he received during a patrol in Carentan, while some are minor, such as Private David Webster (Eion Bailey), the narrator and central character of “The Last Patrol,” being portrayed as having been part of the patrol depicted in this episode. He was not actually part of the patrol, but he did witness the patrol, as he manned a machine-gun on the bank of the river during the patrol

Webster, injured in Holland as depicted in Episode 5 (“‘They got me!’ You believe that? You believe I said that?”), returns to Easy Company at the start of this episode. He discovers that many of the men he once knew as part of the company are dead or seriously injured and he finds that the men that remain are changed, scarred from their tenure in Bastogne and Foy. Their resentment toward Webster is palpable. They do not extend their hands to help Webster into a jeep and even direct him to another platoon. They make sneering remarks about Webster’s lack of need for a hot shower. They single him out for information about the upcoming patrol.

Because of Webster’s actions during the patrol, by the end of the episode, the men help him into the jeep, symbolizing how they have welcomed him back among them. By making Webster a central character in this episode, the writers are able to show how changed and scarred the men are from their action in the Ardennes Forest. It isn’t 100% accurate, there is dramatization, there is literary license taken, but it is effective.

As a side note, Webster, too, is one of my favorite characters, due largely in part to reading his book, Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich. Webster studied English Literature at Harvard and chose to volunteer for the paratroops rather than use his family’s wealth and connections to secure a cushy job far from the front lines. He detested much about the army but would not have traded his experiences because of it for anything. After the war, he was able to sell some articles about his war experiences but could never find a publisher for his memoir until Stephen Ambrose, impressed by Webster’s writings and convinced of their historical value, urged his widow to submit them again in 1994, which she did, resulting in its publication. Webster was a keen and insightful observer of the war, an excellent writer who was able to vividly describe the scenes of war he witnessed and make you feel as if you are right there with him. There are few writers I am truly envious of. Webster is one of them.

Part Nine: Why We Fight

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LIEBGOTT: So what did you study?
WEBSTER: Literature.
LIEBGOTT: Get out of here. You serious? I love to read.
WEBSTER: Do you?
LIEBGOTT: Yeah. Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon mostly.
Webster’s expression: priceless.

This is probably one of the most powerful episodes of the series. The men are now in Germany, riding on jeeps amidst endless lines of surrendered German troops. The men are tired of fighting, ready for the war to end so they can go home and get back to their lives. They consider the war all but over and wonder why they are there still fighting. Webster, tired and angry, stands up and begins a tirade directed at the surrendered marching troops, “Hey you! That’s right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That’s right! Say hello to Ford! Look at you. You have horses. What were you thinking?”

“That’s enough, Webster. Give it a rest.”

Webster sits down and speaks more calmly, “Dragging our asses halfway around the world. Interrupting our lives. For what?” He stands up again. “You ignorant, servile scum! What are we doing here?”

The answer to Webster’s question unexpectedly arrives later when during a patrol the men discover a concentration camp. It is heartbreaking and powerful as emaciated men lean on another to greet the soldiers, one even startling a private with a kiss of appreciation and joy. Winters orders food and water to be distributed among these starved men. As they begin to hand out the bread taken forcibly from a local Baker, Colonel Sink arrives with a doctor who informs Winters that they must stop feeding these men because they are so starved and will eat themselves to death; they need them centralized so they can supervise their medical treatment. Winters orders Liebgott to relate these orders to the members of the camp. Liebgott does so and having delivered his message, sits and breaks down into tears.

“The memory of starved, dazed men, who dropped their eyes and heads when we looked at them through the chain-link fence, in the same manner that a beaten, mistreated dog would cringe, leaves feelings that cannot be described and will never be forgotten. The impact of seeing those people behind that fence left me saying, only to myself, ‘Now I know why I am here!'”
— Major Winters

Amidst this powerful episode is Lieutenant Nixon’s breakdown. His wife is divorcing him (and taking HIS dog). He’s been demoted. He survived a combat jump when others were killed, and he’s never even fired his weapon in combat. And he’s staying in the only dry house in Germany and he NEEDS his Vat 69. I love this guy.

It also bears note that this episode contains an explicit and, in my opinion, unnecessary sex scene. It lasts under a minute, but it is so unexpected and unwarranted that I fail to understand why the producers felt compelled to include it except for the purpose of being shocking and provocative. Winters expressed his disappointment and disgust at this (and the amount of language, which he stated was the exception not the norm) being included in the series that could otherwise be enjoyed without concern by entire families and in classrooms. As unnecessary as this scene is, I do love the fact that Lieutenant Speirs enters the room, witnesses the activity, and is absolutely unaffected by it. He just wants to know where his stuff is. (“This war’s not about fighting anymore. It’s about who gets what.”) Love this guy, too. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Part Ten: “Points”

“Men, it’s been a long war. It’s been a tough war. You have fought bravely, proudly for your country. You are a special group. You have found in one another a bond that exists only in combat among brothers who have shared foxholes, held each other in dire moments, have seen death and suffered together. I’m proud to have served with each and every one of you. You deserve long and happy lives in peace.”

With the suicide of Hitler and the surrender of Germany, the war in Europe is over, but the war in the Pacific is still raging and thus is the fate of the men who do not have enough “points” (awarded based on medals and wounds received) to be sent home. Before they receive details about their deployment to the Pacific, senseless deaths, caused by too many weapons, too much alcohol, and too much spare time, continue to occur.

One night, three men are riding in a jeep when they spot two jeeps on opposite sides of the road and a dead man on the ground. Sgt. Grant steps out of the jeep to find out what has happened. The Private tells him the dead British soldier wouldn’t give him any gas, so he shot him, and when Grant asks the Private for his weapon, the drunken Private shoots Grant.

Told by the Army doctor that Grant’s situation is hopeless and requires a brain surgeon, Speirs drags a German brain surgeon out of his home to perform the operation (which he does successfully, saving Grant’s life), while the other men begin their own search for the Private who shot Grant.

Speirs returns to find the Private tied to a chair, his face bloody from being beaten. “Where’s the weapon?” he demands.

“What weapon?” the Private sasses as he chokes on his own blood. (Apparently nobody told this guy the story about Speirs shooting all those POWs…)

Speirs slaps him across the face with his own weapon. “When you talk to an officer, you say ‘sir.'”

The other men tensely watch Speirs, who then aims his gun to fire at the Private. Many of the men, who had also been eager for revenge on this Private who unnecessarily jeopardized the life of their friend, turn away or close their eyes, unable to watch.

But Speirs doesn’t pull the trigger. Instead he wipes the blood, smeared on his hand from striking the man, on the man’s jacket, turns away, and instructs the men to have the MPs take care of him. Speirs, hardened and heartless soldier he may have been at times, has also seen too much bloodshed.

The men have survived Captain Sobel. They were part of D-Day, Operation Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. They entered Germany, saw the horrors executed on Jews and other unwanted persons, and reached Hitler’s Eagle Nest. And with Major Winters’ announcement that President Truman has received the unconditional surrender of Japan, the war, regardless of points, is over for every man. It is D-Day plus 434.

The men play a game of baseball, with Major Winters revealing the post-war lives of some (not all) of the men we have come to know and love over the course of the series. Warning: You WILL get a huge lump in your throat and you will be overwhelmed with love and gratitude for these men. You will also feel compelled to start the series all over again and read every book you can about their experiences and then start the series all over again and then read some more books about them. It is a vicious and wonderful cycle.

“Do you remember the letter that Mike Ranney wrote me? Do you remember how he ended it? ‘I cherish the memory of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? Grandpa said, No, but I served in a company of heroes.'”

— Dick Winters

America’s Favorite Family, The Nelsons!

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The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is, quite simply, an American Institution. It began as a radio program in 1944, with David and Ricky joining the cast in 1949, and then made the move to television in 1952, after a full-length theatrical feature Here Come the Nelsons was released that same year. The show ran for 14 (!!) seasons, and America watched Ricky and David grow from bickering, wise-cracking little boys to married men–oh, and Ricky blossomed into a singing sensation somewhere along the way, too. Ozzie and Harriet, meanwhile, stayed Ozzie Harriet–wise, loving parents and the gosh darndest cutest couple that ever was.

Ozzie Nelson wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the television series, and he infused his values into the show–values like a loving family and good-natured fun, values that helped shape the Nelson family into the ideal American family, values that still hold up. Despite the show’s title, it wasn’t a very adventuresome show. Most of the plots center around little misunderstandings or mix-ups–but what funny, wholesome, entertaining misunderstandings and mix-ups they were!

Rick Nelson once said that watching episodes of the show were like watching home movies for him. Like a home movie, you can see the genuine love and warmth this family had for one another while watching the show. It makes you want to go over to their house and spend time with them, which you can’t do so you just have to settle for watching another episode, which works out well because there are 435! Here are a few–a very few–of my favorites.

The Pills
Season 1, Episode 3
Original air date: October 17, 1952

Ozzie thinks he needs to lose weight. Why? Harriet has bought him a new pair of pants–a size 33, which he thinks will be too big because he measured a size 30 for his pants in high school. Ozzie models the size 33 for Harriet and Ricky, who begins singing, “Roll out the barrels!” The pants are a little tight, and Ozzie believes it’s because the store sold Harriet the wrong size but still decides to dedicate himself to going on a diet in order to fit into the pants. When he learns that Thorny’s weight loss has actually been due to some appetite-suppressing pills, he decides to do the same…except the pills that he thinks are appetite-suppressing are actually the pills prescribed to Ricky to increase his appetite for nutritious foods (‘cos the kid can’t keep out of the cookie jar apparently). Laughs straight ahead!

Oscillating Ozzie
Season 1, Episode 39
Original air date: June 26, 1953

It all begins with Harriet frying instead of boiling Ozzie’s eggs for breakfast. She just thought he might like a change, but this unexpected change in routine spurs a discussion that perhaps Ozzie, like most men, has become “set in his ways.” Ozzie then becomes determined to prove that he is definitely NOT set in his ways, especially after a discussion with the most annoying character on this show, Emmy Lou. Emmy Lou is a teenager who is all “ooohs” and “ahhhs” and other annoying exclamations. She raves to Ozzie about a movie she recently saw. “What was it called?” Ozzie wants to know. “Farley Granger,” she sighs.

Speaking of Farley Granger, remember that time when a young Ricky Nelson starred in The Story of Three Loves? He was the most adorable, charming child who ran around terrorizing his governess, speaking French–s’il vous plaît, s’il vous plaît!, and wishing desperately that he was all grown up so that he could stay up as late as he liked and would have no more stupid French lessons. Oh, he was adorable and charming. And then he duly goes to bed in his white and blue striped pajamas…and wakes up as Farley Granger, who, try as he might, is just not as adorable and charming as young Ricky Nelson. Maybe because I have a tiny bit of trouble forgetting that time he took part in the “perfect” murder.

Back to Oscillating Ozzie, though.

Emmy Lou’s rave review about this Farley Granger film where Farley Granger is irresponsible and unpredictable convinces Ozzie that he must prove to Harriet that he is NOT set in his ways. He is unpredictable, prone to change his mind, crazy! So he does not buy one quart of vanilla ice cream and one quart of chocolate ice cream. Oh, no–he buys three quarts of Tutti Frutti ice cream! (“What’s Tutti Frutti?” asks Ricky. Ha! Ha! Ha! Spoiler alert! Pop’s gonna spend an entire episode looking for some Tutti Frutti ice cream, Ricky.) And he walks instead of driving–and doesn’t take his usual route, to boot. He changes his clothes for dinner. He decides to stay home and play his banjo instead of going out bowling with Thorny…until Harriet practically pushes him out of the house because she is having a new rug delivered while Ozzie is out because the change would upset him.

“I wonder what’s come over, Pop,” wonders Dave. Ricky just shakes his head and says, “Crazy, mixed up kid!”

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Boy, does that kid makes the show.

When Ozzie meets the rug delivery man on his way to meet Thorny, he discovers Harriet’s plot and decides once again to surprise her by being so incredibly unpredictable and crazy in an ending you have to see for yourself. Oh, Ozzie, we love you just the way you are!

Hairstyle for Harriet
Season 5, Episode 15
Original air date: January 9, 1957

This episode is kind of a companion to “Oscillating Ozzie.” When Ozzie can describe Harriet’s hairstyle perfectly, she believes it’s time for a change, which alarms Ozzie because he likes her hair just the way it is. He’s worried about what she’ll do to her hair and decides to change his own hair, which shocks everyone. Here’s Ricky’s reaction:

Even better, though, is the end of the episode, where Ricky and Dave head out to a costume party. Ricky dresses up as Elvis….and sings a few lines from “Love Me Tender” (this is just a few episodes before his singing debut). Sigh.

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An even deeper sigh. Check out those eyelashes!

And David, inspired by Ozzie, dresses up as Yul Brynner in The King and I, replete with “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Not to be missed!

The Trophy
Season 6, Episode 13
Original air date: January 1, 1958

Ozzie cannot find his decathlon trophy and nobody at the Men’s Club believes he ever won it! So the family decides to enter (and win!) the upcoming Family Decathlon at the Men’s Club picnic. Harriet wins the pie-baking contest. David wins the football-throwing contest. Ricky wins at tennis. And Ozzie…well, Ozzie has a hard time.

There’s also a rock ‘n’ roll dance contest. Guess who enters?

…and scares everybody else out of entering, apparently.

But the final competition–and the one that will determine whether the Nelson family wins the Decathlon and the trophy–is the Obstacle Course, which Ozzie enters. Can he do it? What do you mean, can he do it? Ozzie can do anything!

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With Harriet’s help, of course.

Closed Circut
Season 6, Episode 25
Original air date: March 26, 1958

Ok, I love, love, LOVE this episode. It makes me laugh. A lot.

The Randolphs son, Joe Jr., has devised a way to broadcast television programs from the Nelsons’ basement. This allows for many tricks to be played on unsuspecting members of the Nelson family and visitors in their home! I love when Ricky is a supposed contestant on a game show and can’t answer the question, “What does the formula H2O stand for?”

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“Water!” shouts Ozzie.

“Oh, thanks, Pop!”

Later, Joe Randolph Sr. and Ozzie decide to use the set-up to play a trick on their wives, who have just been spending too much time at the Women’s Club meetings and not enough time at home cooking their dinners. With the help of Ricky, Dave, Joe Jr., and a bachelor friend named Fred, they create a nightclub–drinks, music, dancing, and beautiful girls included!

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Of course the trick backfires. But all ends well with the Nelsons watching Joe and Clara fight and make up on the television. And then….

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Yeah, they totally just broke the fourth wall. And they did it being lovelier and cuter and more endearing than anybody else ever in the history of television.

The Circus
Season 8, Episode 15
Original air date: January 27, 1960

The plot of this episode is actually kind of boring: David, now a budding law clerk, has to serve a summons to an owner of a circus, Mr. Cantini, and he doesn’t want to because the guy is so nice. The best part of this episode is that it allows David and Rick to showcase their actual trapeze talents. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet may have been idealized in some ways, but so many of its story lines were derived from real-life events or integrated their real-life hobbies and skills. David and Ricky actually performed all the flying trapeze tricks in this episode (David was also part of a group that travelled and performed during the summer), and it’s so fun to watch. It’s also fun to watch how Ozzie was able to incorporate their skills into the storyline.

David is restless, worrying about serving this dog-gone summons. “Hey, Ricky,” he asks. “What would you do if you had to serve a summons?”

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“The first thing I’d do is get a good night’s sleep,” responds Ricky, whose hair just happens to be perfectly groomed. Ricky then suggests that David serve Papa Cantini the summons when he swings across the trapeze. David falls asleep and begins to dream about just that…

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David’s the catcher and Ricky’s the flier, and they do some tricks that make me a little nervous. But it’s awesome….just like their outfits.

Let’s take a moment to consider and appreciate that the following photo is for sale on eBay for a mere $9.49:

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I am THIS close to messaging the following to the seller: “Hi, just wondering if this comes in a LARGE poster size. Thanks.”

Cafe Caper
Season 13, Episode 15
Original air date: December 30, 1964

I love this episode. Even though Rick and Dave have both moved out and married, this episode finds them going on a fishing trip with good ol’ Pop. Except they run into a little trouble. First, Harriet is supposed to make them a big breakfast–just like in the old days!–before they head out, but once she hears where June and Kris are spending their day (at a big sale down at the Emporium–where else?), she bolts, leaving the boys and Ozzie to make their own breakfast. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. So they head to a little diner, where they unwittingly witness a robbery, of which they (particularly Ozzie) also become the prime suspects. So…with the help of Harriet, they try to track down the person they believe actually committed the crime, a little old lady who sold them a few donuts before leaving the diner under suspicious circumstances. They eventually find her home, and this VERY important moment occurs:

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Yeah, little Ricky is all grown up…and married. And Kris is a really good cook!

This episode is a lot of fun, and it kept me wondering who really was in the wrong at that little diner. (Ellery Queen probably would have been disappointed in my deduction skills.) Plus, I just love that they are all together…which I guess they are now, too. Tear.

What a special family they were. Sometimes, I take a step back and think about how I’m spending my time watching what I’m watching. Like…why am I spending my time watching a reality show about people losing weight? (Really, I would like to know the answer to this.) Why am I spending my time watching a show where everyone in this hospital has slept with everybody else at some point? Why am I spending my time watching a show about people lost on an island? I don’t have to stop and wonder why I am watching The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. (Well, I have thought about when I actually reach the point where I have seen all 435 episodes–I’m about halfway–which will mean I have spent over 200 hours with this family, and that is kind of crazy.) I watch it because it’s a good show from start to finish–some shows lose quality over time, but not this one. I watch it because it is filled with genuine warmth, affection, and comedy. I watch it because Ricky Nelson has really long, beautiful eyelashes. (Just kidding! …kind of.) I watch it because it’s the Nelsons, America’s favorite family! My favorite family.

You Are Being Watched

PERSON OF INTEREST

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything — violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act so I decided I would, but I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up, we’ll find you.” 

What Harold Finch does not tell you in this prologue is that Person of Interest is a well-written, intelligent, action-packed (translation: Jim Casizzle kickin’ butts), and extremely addictive show that might just be the best show on television right now. It definitely has the best theme song. And now that I’ve finally finished the first two seasons, I can finally watch Person of Interest every Tuesday at 10 P.M. on CBS like normal people do instead of watching two or three or six episodes a day. An unfortunate side effect to this viewing schedule, however, is that I spend every other day of the week wandering the earth like a zombie, unable to function properly without my daily dosage of Finch and Reese.

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Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) is a reclusive, intensely private billionaire who designed “The Machine” for the government and is now using it to prevent crimes. The Machine will feed him a number of a “person of interest” who will be involved — in some way — in a violent, premeditated crime. Nothing less than a genius with computers, Finch generally acts behind the scenes, digging up relevant information, buying security companies, breaking firewalls and the like to help his partner, John Reese, solve the mystery of what exactly the violent crime is and how their person of interest is involved.

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While Finch is the money and brains behind the operation, John Reese (Jim Casizzle — okay, so the credits list him as Jim Caviezel, a common typo ‘cos this dude be on fiiiiiiiiiire) provides the muscle. An ex-CIA agent, presumed to be dead, Reese has “the skills” to intervene and physically stop the violence. If there is one person who can save the world, it’s John Reese. Calm, cool, collected, and very attractive John Reese. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

Reese and Finch are the core of the show. They are two people the world believes to be dead. They are two people whose past lives are not revealed to the audience — or each other — immediately or all at once. They are two people who have saved each other and who need each other. Part of what makes Person of Interest so compelling is the chemistry between these two characters and their stories. The audience knows very little about them at the start of the show, yet you instantly trust and believe in them. And as fragments of their past lives are revealed piece by piece, you gain a greater understanding of who Reese and Finch were and why they are now doing what they do — and you love them all the more for it.

Person of Interest is also compelling because it has the ability to create and seamlessly intertwine multiple story lines into single episodes. Nearly every episode has, at its core, a person of interest whom Reese and Finch are trying to save. But there are often larger story arcs integrated into these stories — one of the main ones being the hunt for “The Man in the Suit” (Reese) by the NYPD (and later the FBI and CIA), threatening to end Finch and Reese’s operation of saving innocent lives.

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Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) initially instigates the search for The Man in the Suit, and, to keep an eye on Carter and to keep their operation intact, Finch and Reese arrange for Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman) to become her partner. Carter is a good cop, through and through. She believes in abiding by and upholding the law and protecting the safety and best interests of the people. Fusco, on the other hand, comes into contact with Reese and Finch because he is a “dirty” cop. He has been involved in unsavory and unlawful situations and operations, but Reese saves him to use his connections with the NYPD.

Yet, as the series progresses, you see both Carter and Fusco undergo changes. Carter begins to see the necessity of forgoing police procedures (and maybe even breaking the law) at times for a greater cause. Fusco, too, changes from a very dirty cop to a cop who desperately wants to forget and erase his past wrongdoings and do what is right. When he tries to explain to Carter his darker past, he tells her that he has truly changed since he met “their friends” — Finch and Reese. Just as Finch and Reese saved each other, they have also saved Fusco. I love that about this show — that not only do nearly every episode we see the good guys saving innocent lives against very bad people but we also see how the main characters save one another and change each other for the better.

Finch, Reese, Carter, and Fusco are the dream team and main cast of the first two seasons. In the second season, another member is added to this dream team: Bear, a military-trained Belgian Shepherd who responds to Dutch commands.

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I love Bear. I love how he helps Reese and Finch take care of business, I love how he misses Reese, but most of all I love his relationship with Finch. Reese obtains Bear and brings him home to Finch, who is reluctant to adopt the dog and is also suffering from some post-traumatic stress. But Finch and Bear grow so attached to each other, and Bear is ultimately the one who helps Finch work through his post-traumatic stress. Bear is so sweet and loyal and the best addition to this show so far.

Which, speaking of additions, let’s discuss Season 3 thus far.

Prior to Season 3, I would not have hesitated to say that Person of Interest is the best show on television. But the show’s third season has some startling developments and additions to the cast. In the third season, Samantha Shaw, a lackluster character introduced in the second season, is now present in every single episode.

Shaw is now part of the team helping Finch and Reese, but she is an unnecessary third wheel. Her character would be better served if she were an occasional recurring character who help Finch and Reese — like Zoe and Leon — but inserting her into every episode is unbearable. She is a boring character who tries too hard to be the female version of John Reese. Except she’s not as cool or compassionate or just plain interesting as Reese. We understand why Reese and Finch do what they do, but Shaw appears to be nothing short of a cold-blooded killer, intent on revenge and violence.

In the episodes so far, her character’s presence has taken away from the other main characters — the ones we care about, the ones who are interesting, the ones whose chemistry and dynamic was letter-perfect. So why was Shaw added as a principal character? I’m really hoping that it is only temporary in order to give Jim Casizzle a bit of a break as he makes movies and models and all that. Regardless, I hope she is killed off soon. Like next week soon.

I’m also hoping that the third season will finally feature Guy Pearce as a person of interest and that when Pearce asks Caviezel why he’s doing what he’s doing, Caviezel can respond, “It’s complicated.”

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Despite my misgivings about the third season, Person of Interest is still being watched. Because I need to know if Fusco will ever go on another date with that woman from Season 2. Because I need to know what happens to Carter and her investigation of HR. Because I need to see Jim Casizzle’s face when Finch is explaining what he’s doing computer-wise to help solve the case. Because…well, it’s complicated.

Debbie’s Choice

We live in a world where Robert Redford’s face exists, radiating light and beauty, Jonathan Frid was Grand Marshal of at least one parade, and, in 1968, twin brothers Robin and Maurice Gibb were contestants on an episode of The Dating Game–and, 45 years later, we are able to watch that episode via the Internet. (Thank you, Chaplinssmile1 for recording your television and uploading this gem! You are a star.) We live in a wonderful, wonderful world.

The gist of The Dating Game is this: There is a single contestant and a panel of three bachelors. The contestant and the panel do not see one another, and the contestant asks each member of the panel individual questions. Based on the answers to these questions, the contestant selects which bachelor she would most like to date, and the show supposedly sends them on a date.

At the start of the show, the host introduces us to the contestants: “There’s no mystery about how The Bee Gees got their name. It was brother Barry Gibb and two other people who supplied the moniker. Now the big mystery this evening is whether our lovely young lady will choose one of the two Bee Gee brothers…or our Olympic Gold Medal winner.”

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Left: Bachelor #1, Maurice “Mo” Gibb, Right: Bachelor #3, Robin “Hunky” Gibb. Not pictured: Bachelor #2, Some Olympian Whose Last Name Is Not Gibb.

I think its no mystery whom I would pick. Ha ha. But who will the contestant, Debbie, pick and what kind of questions will she ask?

The first question Debbie asks Bachelors 1 and 2 is: What do you like most about the dark?

“Well, I love gathering lilacs in an old brown shoe. Basically. In the dark,” Mo answers nonchalantly.

Uh, okay.

Then Debbie asks Bachelor 3 (ROBIN), “If you came over to my house and my mother was playing cards with a tomato and my father was talking on a banana and I was wrestling with a grapefruit, what would you do to fit into the family?”

Ummm….WHAT? I know it was the ’60s and everything, but did contestants not have to pass a drug test to be on this show? Seriously. What the heck, Debbie? You are so weird.

Robin, though, is good-natured about it, and says he would join in. When pressured by Debbie to define what exactly he would do in order to fit in, Robin tells her that it wouldn’t really matter what he did with a family like that–he could do just about anything. You tell ‘er, Robin.

And if that question wasn’t weird enough, Debbie then asks, “If on our first date, you kissed me and I turned into a flower, what kind of flower would I be and what would you do with me?”

This is literally Mo’s face while Debbie asks the question:

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“Get me out of here!” Me too, Mo. Me too.

“You’d be a rose and I’d water you,” Mo replies. Can you believe this guy would one day write “Closer Than Close”? I think Mo must have borrowed Robin’s sass for this show.

Debbie asks some more really weird questions, and then she concludes her interrogation with, “I love soft things, so say the softest thing you can think of to me right now.”

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“Cushion. C-U-S-H-I-O-N.”

(Dear Robin, U-R-A-Q-T.)

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“Butter.”

“Water?”

“Butter. B-U-double T-E-R.”

This girl is so weird. W-E-I-R-D.

Debbie now has 60 seconds to decide which bachelor she would most like to date. Who do you think she will pick? Let’s review. There’s Mo, who has appeared quite disinterested in the whole thing. His answers have bordered on caustic, but since he’s a Gibb, you know there’s no real malice. Then there’s his twin brother, Robin, whose speaking voice even closely resembles that of an angel. His answers have been polite and well-thought-out. And then there’s some other guy but he is OBVIOUSLY not even in the running because what chance does he stand against TWO Gibbs? Zero chance, that’s what.

And Debbie chooses…

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Bachelor #1, Maurice Gibb! He is absolutely chuffed.

Now, there were a few confusing things about this program, like the questions and how anyone thought they stood a chance against Robin Gibb and then how anyone but Robin Gibb was selected as the date, but something that really confuses me is the “date.”

The host tells this story about rocks and how Debbie and Maurice are going to this place where special rocks are discovered–the diamond mines of Johannesburg, South Africa! Okay, never mind that this is a bit over-the-top for a first date, WHY would anyone going on a date with Maurice “Mo” Gibb need to go anywhere but MOTOWN? Honestly. This show is weird.

I’d really like to know if Debbie and Mo ever went on that date to South Africa. Debbie, the world is waiting for your tell-all.

Watch for yourself: Part One | Part Two