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



Season 4
COMBAT! episodes:

[A Day in June]
[Any Second Now]
[Just for the Record]
[The Squad]
[Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherd]
[Forgotten Front]
[Missing In Action]
[Rear Echelon Commandos]
[The Chateau]
[The Prisoner]
[Escape to Nowhere]
[The Celebrity]
[Far from the Brave]
[The Quiet Warrior]
[Cat and Mouse]
[I Swear by Apollo]
[The Walking Wounded]
[The Medal]
[The Volunteer]
[No Time for Pity]
[Next in Command]
[Night Patrol]
[Off Limits]
[No Hallelujahs for Glory]
[Battle of the Roses]
[Hill 256]
[The Sniper]
[One More for the Road]
[High Named Today]
[No Trumpets, No Drums]

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reviews by Jo DavidsmeyerEpisodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets

(021) Survival

* * * *
4 bayonets

Written by John D.F. Black
Directed by Robert Altman
Produced by Robert Altman
First aired 12-Mar-1963 (Episode 23, Season 1)


Outnumbered and out of ammunition, Hanley, Saunders and the squad must surrender to the Germans. In the confusion of an artillery barrage, Hanley and the men escape, not noticing that Saunders is trapped behind in a burning barn. Alone and in agonizing pain, Saunders wanders helplessly through German-held territory.


When Vic Morrow received his emmy nomination for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead), he credited his performance in "Survival" for earning him that honor. Morrow delivers an outstanding performance, as mesmerizing and terrible as a roadside wreck that drivers can barely stand to view, yet cannot turn away from. To enhance the realism, Vic Morrow did extensive medical research on burns.

"Survival" is the zenith of Robert Altman's vision of Saunders as a living martyr to war. Altman heaped harrowing images on an already brutal script by John D.F. Black. The episode is uncompromising in its look at agony and despair, and flaunts a shocking grimness, rare even by today's television standards.

Altman offers up some powerful images in this episode, shots that linger in the mind long after viewing:

  • helpless mortals pulled through the dust and dirt, harnessed to the all-powerful symbol of war and destruction
  • a man writhing impotently in pain, bound and abandoned to flames
  • a young man struggling to put on boots, looking up into certain death: a completely pointless death, that didn't progress the plot but merely added another layer of despair and hopelessness
  • shot after shot of help and succor just out of reach — from the moonlit crossing of Saunders and the squad in the stream, to the agonizing nearness of a golden apple dancing beyond reach in the sunlight

I am glad this episode is part of Combat! And equally glad that this was a departure from the usual fare. Altman's vision is rivetting for an episode or two. In the long run, however, I prefer Kennedy's and McEveety's vision of the show.


"We didn't have a script for it," remembers Altman. "We had the situation and how he got burned and separated. But then it was just working with Vic and figuring out the things a man does when he's out of his mind in pain. The surrendering to a dead German just happened. It seemed right."

This was Robert Altman’s last work on Combat! "They didn't feel we should make this episode. I got fired over it."


  • This is the only episode to have music NOT by Leonard Rosenman. Music in this episode is composed and conducted by George Bassman, music supervision by John Fresco.
  • The last appearance of Joby Baker as Kelly. His recurring character, recurs no more, having given his life in the pursuit of footwear.
  • In the opening sequence, Morrow's helmet appears on and off his head in no particular pattern, and is finally off when he surrenders.
  • Tanks were too important to use for prisoner transport. But it makes a great visual!
  • After the large explosion involving a "stunned" Sgt. Saunders, the crew found an 18-inch long shard of real glass sticking out of the ground near Vic; it just missed him.
  • For the night-time shoot in the river, all the actors were wearing wet suits under their uniforms. Tom Lowell says that "the water out on Lot 3 was always ice cold, even in the middle of summer."
  • Fans who want further information about this episode, read the chapter about Combat! in the Robert Altman biography, Jumping Off the Cliff


Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley

Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Tom Lowell as Billy

John Seigfried as Kurt
Donald Ein as Sergeant
Mike Murphy as 1st tanker
Matty Jordan as 2nd tanker
and Joby Baker as Kelly

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File last updated June 28, 2012

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