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Combat! Season 1
Combat! Season 2
Combat! Season 3
Combat! Season 4
Combat! Season 5



Season 4
COMBAT! episodes:

[Season 2 (1963 - 1964)]
[Bridge at Chalons]
[The Long Way Home]
[A Distant Drum]
[Infant of Prague]
[The Wounded Don't Cry]
[The Little Jewel]
[Glow Against the Sky]
[The Party]
[Anatomy of a Patrol]
[What Are the Bugles...]
[Thunder from the Hill]
[The Pillbox]
[Gideon's Army]
[General and the Sergeant]
[The Hostages]
[A Silent Cry]
[Eyes of the Hunter]
[Mail Call]
[The Hunter]
[Weep No More]
[The Short Day of Pvt Putnam]
[The Glory Among Men]

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reviews by Jo DavidsmeyerEpisodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets


Rating: 3.5 bayonets

First aired 09-24-63, Episode 2 of Season 2

Written by Edward J. Lakso
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Produced by Gene Levitt



In "Bridgehead," Saunders must take a German-held bridge despite nearly insurmountable opposition, including resistance from private Hellar, a new member of the squad.

"Bridgehead" has all the elements of a great "Combat!" episode, plus the benefit of a script by Edward J. Lakso and direction by Bernard McEveety. Well-acted, carefully crafted moments abound: a genuine Saunders' patented pep-talk to a new squad member, Littlejohn's self-recrimination over a fatal blunder, Billie's near-paralyzing fear under fire, and Doc's impassioned desire to shed his non-combatant role and seek vengeance. With all this going for it, "Bridgehead" should be a top-notch episode. But these excellent moments exist in isolation. The parts never gel into a cohesive whole. Nick Adams as Hellar and Vic Morrow as Sergeant Saunders

I believe this is the only Combat! episode that takes place in real-time (the "action" of the show takes ~55 minutes, the episode is ~55 minutes long). Saunders' near-impossible mission must be completed within a set amount of time. This should add a harrowing tension, certainly a sense of urgency. But director McEveety, usually so skilled at developing pace, inexplicably lets the action meander from one corner of the battle to another. No sharp-focus is kept on the overall mission, no compelling push links all the scenes together to drive the action forward.

One major detriment to the episode is the character of Hellar, portrayed by Nick Adams. Nothing wrong with Adams' performance. He ably embodies this jazzman's arrogance, ego, and wise-cracking insubordination. He's a laid-back shirker, which makes keeping an intense pace to this episode rather difficult. Nothing makes this character move fast, so scenes with him break any tension created earlier. His eleventh-hour redemption and self-sacrifice are predictable. Overall, his character is a distraction from what might have been a breath-taking episode. With his character removed, they might have created a story as moving as "Hills Are For Heroes," which in its plot is remarkably similar to "Bridgehead."

Dick Peabody stumbles in battle in Combat!Doc and Billy have the best moments in this episode. In a series of scenes, Tom Lowell vividly makes clear the fear of a young man facing certain death. He is compelled to fight on, not by duty or honor, but by the sheer will of an angry Sergeant. Lowell displays the greatest kind of heroism, managing to do battle through an all-consuming terror. Despite uncontrollable shaking and tears, he does his job. His fellow soldier, older and more mature, meets the same challenge and fails -- spending much of the episode huddled in a corner overcome by personal demons and unable to support Billy's efforts. Conlan Carter gives us a Doc that dispels any lingering memory of Steven Rogers' sensitive, introspective medic. Carter's Doc rails against the non- combatant role imposed on him by regulations. Not a passive man by nature, in this episode he has reached his limit, no longer able to sit by and watch the casualties mount. "I'm beginning to think I'm gonna be all by myself when this thing's over," Doc says to Hanley, "Now the killin' is gettin' way ahead of the fixin'. He wants a weapon, he wants to fight back. Carter convincingly shows the mixed desires and fears of this complex character: tender and compassionate as he deals with Littlejohn's wounds (physical and emotional), then vengeful as he craves blood for blood. It's a great scene, for awhile; it's hard to believe the passion of Doc's convictions when just a few sentences from Hanley restore his reason and good nature.

Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers

Any episode that starts with a close-up of Paul Busch can't be all bad.

Tom Lowell as Billy NelsonBilly's father apparently has recovered from his unfortunate death in "The Celebrity", since Billy talks about a recent letter from his father.

Editing boo-boo: we see a scene of Doc bandaging a wounded Kirby BEFORE Kirby gets wounded.

It's nice to hear Hanley talk about the other squads' activities in this episode; I was beginning to think that this was the most seriously understaffed platoon in the US army.

Would someone please get Saunders a knife! In five years of "Combat!", he never carried a knife or a bayonet, so he's always mooching blades from the guys. In this episode he even mooches a bayonet from the Lieutenant. What's his aversion to carrying edged weapons? Morrow certainly carries them enough in other roles he's tackled.

We see Joey Walsh (Pvt. Jack Johnson in "Bridgehead") again in fourth season's "Hills Are For Heroes". We also see Noam Pitlick (the ill-fated Pvt. Scott) in third season's "Beneath the Ashes."

This episode contains my nomination for the oddest character- exposition dialog of the whole series. Hellar says "It's all a matter of direction. You stick your neck into a lion's mouth and you come up without a head. Me, I'm a south-bound fellow in a north-bound world."

Cast Credits

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley

Nick Adams as
as Pvt. Mick Hellar

Jack Hogan as Kirby
Tom Lowell as Billy Nelson
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Conlan Carter as Doc

Noam Pitlick .... Pvt. Gene Scott
Paul Busch .... German Sergeant
Joey Walsh .... Pvt. Jack Johnson
Richard Jury .... Pvt. Wayne Shrope
Fred Harris .... Cole

Selected Dialog

I'm gonna say this once and I'm gonna say it to all of you. Keep your mouths shut, your heads down and your ears open. You'll follow my orders and don't ask why. Is that clear?

Saunders in Command (43 k)

Nobody cares. And you want to know why? Because they haven't got time. Because everybody's fighting his -- his own little slice of the war. And this is our little slice.

You better open your eyes and look around. You may die here today, Hellar. And if you don't know why, if you can't come up with a reason then your -- your whole life has been one big nothin'.

We can't take that house without a tank, Lieutenant.
We have to.
We were told to.

Doing the Impossible (54 k)

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